China defends Mugabe’s right to buy home in Hong Kong

February 17th, 2009 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, Feb 17 (DPA) China Tuesday defended the right of Robert Mugabe to own a Hong Kong home after the Zimbabwean leader reportedly paid $5 million for a villa in the former British colony.

“Hong Kong is a free port, and even Falun Gong practitioners can buy a property there, am I right?” a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing told Tuesday’s South China Morning Post.

The comment came after the Sunday Times newspaper in London reported that Robert and Grace Mugabe had bought a home in a luxury complex in Hong Kong’s Tai Po district last year.

The spokesman’s comment referred to the Falun Gong movement, a religious sect banned in China but free to practice in Hong Kong which has freedoms of speech guaranteed in its mini-constitution.

Police were called to the Mugabe property Friday when two photographers working for the newspaper were allegedly assaulted as they attempted to deliver a letter and take picture of the villa.

The incident took place weeks after Grace Mugabe allegedly assaulted another Sunday Times photographer as he took pictures of her shopping in Hong Kong.

The Mugabes’ daughter Bona is studying in a university in Hong Kong and students in Zimbabwe have held protests demanding that she be deported and made to study in her home country.

Pro-democracy legislator Emily Lau called on the Hong Kong government to make clear its policy on whether politicians such as Mugabe should be allowed to visit or settle in the city.

Mugabe, whose country is in economic and political turmoil, is banned from travelling to the US or the EU. Children of Zimbabwe regime members have been refused admission to Australian universities.

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