Hong Kong authorities have expelled former Bank of America Merrill Lynch executive Samuel Bickett. He had been forced to leave the territory immediately after serving a prison sentence for assaulting a plainclothes police officer in 2019.

The 37-year-old lawyer said he had tried to stop the officer from "beating and choking" someone who had entered the subway without paying a fare. The officer had not been in uniform and Bickett said he had not had any way of knowing he had been striking a member of the police force. The incident had occurred at the same time as pro-democracy demonstrations but had not been politically motivated.

From prison to plane

In a statement posted on Twitter, Bickett said he had not been allowed to properly prepare his departure from Hong Kong. "I was instead taken immediately from prison to Immigration Detention, then escorted to a plane the same day," he said. He said he had not been allowed to say goodbye to anyone or "wind up my affairs." The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted an unnamed government official as saying the hasty expulsion had been justified because Bickett had not possessed a valid residence permit.

In his Twitter post, Bickett said he had been detained for eight hours at an airport in Turkey while on his way to Washington, D.C. He said Turkish officials had told him they had been acting on a request from Hong Kong.

Banned from Hong Kong

"I have been banned from Hong Kong," the lawyer said on Twitter. The unnamed official told the SCMP that Bickett had not been banned from the territory. The source also told the paper that Bickett had, in fact, been allowed to say goodbye to his partner before flying out of the former British colony.

He had also been allowed to pick up some luggage, the source told the SCMP.

In his Twitter statement, the American said the autonomous Chinese city had "long been my home." His departure had been ordered "by an unelected government that, with open contempt for Hong Kong's system of law and justice, has sought to destroy everything and everyone that makes our city exceptional," he said.

Bickett also said he believed he would "be able to once again walk the streets of a Hong Kong ruled by law and governed with the consent of its people."

The SCMP said the city's law allowed the government to refuse entry to a foreigner who had been convicted of a crime in Hong Kong punishable by two years or more in prison. The court had given the American a prison sentence of less than five months, the paper noted.

The one-time compliance director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch had been a critic of the government, NBC News recalled. Bickett's treatment by the government was seen by many observers as an example of the squelching of dissent in Hong Kong since the imposition of a national security law by mainland China in 2020, NBC News said.

Hong Kong drops ban on flights from U.S.

The New York Times reported that Hong Kong was set to relax some of its travel restrictions on April 1. On that day, flights from nine countries would no longer be banned from the territory, the paper said. Those countries are Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States. Hong Kong would still be closed to everyone except vaccinated Hong Kong residents returning to the territory, the paper said.

Publishing a newsletter

For the past three months, Bickett has been publishing a Substack newsletter on law in the former British colony. "My main purpose in creating this newsletter is to document the deterioration of rule of law in Hong Kong by breaking down the countless ways in which the government ignores and perverts the law to serve its political purposes," he said.