French comedian Dieudonne 'likely to be deported' from Hong Kong
Controversial French comedian Dieudonne was being held at Hong Kong airport Thursday after flying in to give performances in the city, with his production company saying he was likely to be deported. The comedian, who has been repeatedly convicted in France for anti-Semitic remarks, arrived in Hong Kong early Thursday and had been held for seven hours by immigration officers at the airport, his lawyer Sanjay Mirabeau said. It was not immediately clear why he had been stopped or on what grounds he could be deported. The South China Morning Post reported the comedian was held after complaints by the French and Israeli consulates ahead of his shows. Hong Kong's immigration department said it would not comment on individual cases. However, in a statement in response to enquiries about the case, it said it was "committed to upholding effective immigration control by denying the entry of undesirables". Mirabeau said there was no reason for the comedian to be detained. "His new show, 'In Peace', does not contain anything contrary to law. He speaks of plants, ecology," he said. Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala's company Plume Productions said he was being held with his children at the airport. "He will likely be deported in the coming hours," it said in a statement. The French consulate confirmed that Dieudonne, 49, had been held by immigration officers on his arrival. "It's a question of implementing immigration laws relevant to the Hong Kong authorities," a consulate spokesman told AFP. The consulate added that it had not asked the Hong Kong government to prevent Dieudonne entering the city. But according to police sources cited by the Post, the consulate had written a letter expressing concern over the visit, warning that it could trigger "a disturbance to public order". Hong Kong has a strong French community with more than 12,000 French citizens registered by the consulate as living in the city. - String of convictions - Dieudonne, who made his name in a double act with Jewish comedian Elie Semoun, is infamous for his trademark "quenelle" hand gesture that looks like an inverted Nazi salute but which he insists is merely anti-establishment. French courts have hauled him up over a string of comments which opponents say are bluntly racist while supporters champion his right to free speech. A Belgian court sentenced Dieudonne to two months in jail in November for incitement to hatred over alleged racist and anti-Semitic comments he made during a show in Belgium. Earlier that month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Dieudonne in a separate case, deciding that freedom of speech did not protect "racist and anti-Semitic performances". Dieudonne was protesting over a fine he received from a French court in 2009 for inviting a Holocaust-denier on stage. He was fined 10,000 euros ($11,000) for what that court referred to as "racist insults". In March, a French court also handed Dieudonne a two-month suspended sentence and fined him heavily for condoning terrorism after he caused uproar by suggesting he sympathised with the attacks against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris. The comedian was due to give two performances of his new show Thursday and Friday at Hong Kong's Cyberport development in the south of the city.