SCMP Saturday, September 9, 2000

Games row as HK man barred


Businessman Carl Ching Men-ky, vice-president of the International Basketball Federation, was denied entry despite having accreditation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Immigration officials cited "serious issues of character" in denying entry to Mr Ching and the other official, who is from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and is allegedly tied to organised crime.
The move angered the IOC, which said its rules stated accreditation to the Games automatically gave an individual the right to enter the host country. The organisation demanded an explanation from Prime Minister John Howard.
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock defended the ban. "We are dealing here with serious issues of character and we're not making capricious decisions. It's an issue that relates to the safety and security of the Australian community," he said. He did not give details. Mr Howard said the ban would not be reconsidered. "It's quite consistent with the letter of the understanding concluded when Sydney won the bid a few years ago. That's the end of the matter."
IOC director-general Francois Carrard said the Olympic charter stated that an identity and accreditation card served as a visa for the Games.
He said the Australian Government had previously given a "clear and unequivocal commitment" to honour the charter, and the provision was also part of the host city contract signed after Sydney was awarded the Games in 1993.
IOC vice-president Dick Pound said: "In general, you're supposed to let everyone in. We had the Games in the US and they had to let in the Libyan shooting team. It's part of the deal."
The Games start next Friday.
Mr Ching, 60, who is involved in securities and tourism businesses and is a member of the Election Committee that will choose six legislators in tomorrow's Legco poll, is understood to have arrived in Sydney on a Cathay Pacific flight yesterday. He was sent home on the next flight.
His office at the Asian Basketball Association, where he is chairman, said he had gone to the mainland on business and could not be contacted.
Con Conway, vice-president of the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, who is in Sydney, said Mr Ching was not a member of the SAR delegation. "He is not a member of the Hong Kong Olympic family or a Hong Kong delegate. He has never been a member of the HK Sports Federation and Olympic Committee."
It was unclear whether Mr Ching had been invited to the Games as a guest or a sports official because of his position with the international federation.
It was the second time Mr Ching has been denied entry to a country. In 1994, he was barred from attending an international basketball competition in Vancouver for "national security reasons".
The Home Affairs Bureau and Security Bureau said they were looking into the matter. Police refused to disclose whether Australian authorities had contacted the force about Mr Ching.
The other Olympic official, Gafur Rakhimov from Uzbekistan, is involved in boxing. He has been described in FBI and Russian police files as an organised crime boss in Uzbekistan.