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Global head of Human Rights Watch denied access to Hong Kong

This Sunday the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kennneth Roth, was denied entry into Hong Kong, where he was scheduled to launch the organisation’s World Report 2020 report later this week.

Roth has said Immigration authorities told him he could not enter the Chinese-ruled city when he landed at Hong Kong International Airport, despite being allowed access in the past; including to release a Human Rights Watch report on gender discrimination in the Chinese job market in April 2018.

The 652-page World Report 2020 is a comprehensive review of human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. Each year, an introductory essay highlights a major human rights theme. This year, in what marks the 30th edition of the report, Roth’s lead essay warns that the Chinese government is carrying out an intensive attack on the global system for enforcing human rights.

“I had hoped to spotlight Beijing’s deepening assault on international efforts to uphold human rights,” Roth said. “The refusal to let me enter Hong Kong vividly illustrates the problem.”

The report had been scheduled for release on January 14 at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondent Club. However, the report will now be launched a day earlier at the United Nations in New York, Human Right Watch have said in a statement.

The Foreign Correspondents’ club has released a statement expressing its concern that the Hong Kong government is using the immigration department to act punitively against organisations and media representatives it does not agree with, saying:

“This sort of treatment and lack of explanation appeared to be making a weapon of visas and violated press freedom rights in Hong Kong law,”

Hong Kong has increasingly denied individuals – including activists, journalists and academics – access into the city since the start of the ongoing, sometimes violent anti-government protests over seven months ago.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Human Rights Watch had encouraged radicals in Hong Kong “to take violent and extremist actions.”

“They have instigated the activities of Hong Kong separatists and hold a major responsibility for the current chaos,” Geng said.

Roth reports that immigration officials cited only “immigration reasons” as the justification for denying him access.

Speaking to Human Rights Watch, Roth said:

“This disappointing action is yet another sign that Beijing is tightening its oppressive grip on Hong Kong and further restricting the limited freedom Hong Kong people enjoy under ‘one country, two systems’.”

The International Observatory of Human Rights has expressed solidarity with Roth, with director Valerie Peay saying:

“China’s actions in trying to silence global human rights defenders such as Human Rights Watch, shows the people of Hong Kong that the one country rule is China. Those who speak out for freedom will be silenced, refused visas and branded as rebel rousers or worse, terrorist sympathisers. The line has been crossed and all of us around the world and especially in the UK, owe it to the people of Hong Kong to speak up for those universal freedoms and make sure that silence does not consume their fight”

The news follows threats made last month by a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official to impose “sanctions” against human rights watch and several other US-based pro-democracy organisations. Neither Beijing nor Hong Kong authorities have since provided further details.

Human Rights Watch, a New York based organisation, upholds that as Beijing attempts to broaden its repression globally, China is increasingly disregarding the international human rights system which guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms. And that people living in China are currently witnessing the most severe repression in decades under President Xi Jingping and the Chinese Communist Party.

This has led Roth to state:

“My denial of entry pales in comparison to the harassment that Chinese activists routinely endure – jail, torture, and enforced disappearance simply for trying to secure basic rights for their fellow citizens…But China’s efforts to interfere with the work of international groups like Human Rights Watch is a form of global censorship that governments should resist before it’s too late.”

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