A former Philippine Foreign Secretary who accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of crimes against humanity said yesterday he was barred from immediately entering Hong Kong and held at the airport for unclear reasons.

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Associated Press by telephone that he flew to Hong Kong yesterday for a business meeting but was blocked by immigration officers from entering. He said he was held in a small airport immigration lounge. Immigration personnel told him an unspecified "case" was the reason why he was not allowed to enter the territory immediately. At the time he talked with the AP by cellphone, he said he had already been held for two hours.

"I keep reminding them that I'm travelling on a diplomatic passport and according to the Vienna Convention, they have no right to hold me," del Rosario said, referring to the international treaty that specifies the privileges of diplomats to carry out their work without fear of coercion by a host country. Del Rosario said he was told he would be moved to another airport area to have a discussion with an immigration official.

Last May, former Philippine Supreme Court Justice and top anti-graft prosecutor Conchita Carpio-Morales said she was also barred for about four hours from entering Hong Kong for a vacation with her family and ordered to take a flight back to Manila.

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Hong Kong airport and immigration officials later told her "there was a mistake" and that she could proceed with her trip to Hong Kong, but she and her family had already decided to return home because of the incident, she said at the time.

Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales took the bold step of filing a complaint before the International Criminal Court against Xi and other Chinese officials over Beijing's assertive actions in the disputed South China Sea, which they say deprived thousands of fishermen of their livelihoods and destroyed the environment. They accused Xi and other Chinese officials of turning seven disputed reefs into man-made islands, causing extensive environmental damage, and of blocking large numbers of fishermen, including about 320,000 Filipinos, from their fishing grounds.

- AP