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July 26, 2017

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2nd Tiananmen dissident denied entry to Hong Kong

HONG KONG — A second dissident who took part in the 1989 pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square was denied entry to Hong Kong ahead of the 20th anniversary of China's brutal crackdown, an activist said Wednesday.

The U.S. government criticized the deportation of American citizen Xiang Xiaoji, saying the decision is "particularly regrettable."

The Chinese government has been rounding up dissidents before the sensitive anniversary — a taboo topic on the mainland. By contrast, the event is openly commemorated in Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled former British colony that enjoys freedom of speech. However, the local government has turned away some Tiananmen dissidents.

Xiang was deported back to the U.S. after arriving from New York City by plane late Tuesday, activist Richard Tsoi told The Associated Press.

Asked about Xiang's case at a meeting of Hong Kong's legislature Wednesday, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee said he wouldn't comment on individual cases but denied that the government kept an immigration blacklist, Hong Kong's radio RTHK reported on its Web site.

Immigration officials did not explain why they denied entry, Xiang's lawyer, pro-democracy legislator James To said.

U.S. Consulate General spokesman Dale Kreisher said the decision was "particularly regrettable in light of Hong Kong's well-known reputation as an open society."

"We view any attempt to restrict the free flow of information and exchange of ideas with concern," Kreisher said.

Xiang planned to attend Hong Kong's annual candlelight vigil to honor victims of the Tiananmen crackdown on Thursday, June 4 — the 20th anniversary of the military action — and an academic conference about changes in China since Tiananmen on Wednesday, To said.

In a statement issued through To, Xiang called his deportation "a wrong decision."

"Hong Kong people encourage Chinese people to keep pursuing democracy by remembering June 4 every year," Xiang said.

Xiang is the second Tiananmen dissident to be denied entry in recent weeks. U.S. permanent resident Yang Jianli was turned away at the airport several weeks ago, according to an academic who invited him to the conference about changes since Tiananmen.

A Danish artist who created a sculpture depicting its victims was also denied entry to the territory Saturday. Jens Galschiot said immigration officials didn't explain why he was deported. The Hong Kong government said it acted legally but didn't give details.

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