Two Hong Kong-based Americans have had their Iranian visa requests rejected by the local consulate in response to US President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Tehran’s top envoy to the city has revealed.
Iranian consul general Mehdi Fakheri said his country was greatly surprised by the US ban, which Trump instated late last month but has since been temporarily suspended. Despite the suspension, Fakheri said the move had already impacted both Iranians and Americans living in Hong Kong.
The consul general said since the ban was ordered on January 27, two Americans in Hong Kong had their Iranian visa applications rejected.
"Some of them, I know they have planned a long time ago to go to Iran,” he said.
"One of them was a Hong Kong girl holding a US passport, while another was a businessman who was going to Iran for business.
"We had to object to it because reciprocity is the only arm we have in diplomatic relations,” he explained.
He added that the consulate had resumed issuing visas for American citizens given Trump’s executive order was temporarily halted by a US federal judge on February 3.
Fakheri, who has been based in Hong Kong since 2015, said he expected to receive queries from Iranians residing in the city. There are about 300 Iranians residing in Hong Kong and Macau, and about 100 in Taiwan. There are another 10,000 Iranians living on the mainland, where Iran has three embassies and consulates.
"Those who are based here normally have relatives living in the United States,” he said. "I know at least a dozen Iranians who have either their parents or their children in the US, so [the ban] is something that it will affect Iranians here as well.”
The executive order seeks to ban entry for citizens from seven Muslim majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days, and limit the Western nation’s refugee programme.
The move quickly triggered protests, drew international criticism and disrupted the lives of hundreds of people who were travelling to the US at the time.
In the first appellate court ruling on the controversial measure earlier this week, a US federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to reinstate the ban. The Trump administration has since vowed to fight the court’s ruling.
Iran is the only country out of all seven nations on the US travel ban list with official representation in Hong Kong.
"We understand that countries and governments are within their full rights to decide something to protect their people,” Fakheri said.
"But if this decision has been taken as it was claimed – to counter terrorism – then they should include countries that have been financing terrorism in the past.”
Fakheri argued that Trump’s policy does not aim to combat terrorism, and suggested there was instead a "hidden agenda”. He continued on to criticise Trump’s isolationist attitude and his stance on climate change.
"You have someone saying ‘I don’t care about you’. But Saying this is very insulting to the world... So we have to talk among us and get a better position,” he said.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Chinese president Xi Jinping (習近平) said globalisation could not be blamed for the world’s problems, and no nation would gain from a trade war. Xi’s declarations were perceived as an answer to Trump.
"It’s curious that the communist country [China] takes the flag of globalisation and freedom of trade,” Fakheri said.
"If others don’t want to take that flag, China is there, Russia is there… we have to make our life possible.”