Responding to the UK organization Hong Kong Watch saying it has been threatened with criminal sanctions by the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Department, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Erwin van der Borght said:
“The targeting of Hong Kong Watch is the latest example of the Hong Kong government attempting to curb the freedoms of expression and association under the auspices of its draconian national security law.
“But perhaps even more significantly, it also signals a disturbing expansion of this crackdown into attacks on groups operating outside of Hong Kong – highlighting the threat that this law can theoretically be used to prosecute anyone on the planet.
“Meanwhile, the shutdown of the Hong Kong Watch website inside the city shows how the authorities are increasingly turning to internet censorship to wipe out opposing views – a tactic routinely used by the Chinese central authorities.
“Human rights activists, inside or outside of Hong Kong, should never be intimidated or prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Hong Kong government must end its relentless campaign against civil society groups with its ever-expanding application of the national security law.”
Hong Kong Watch said today that it had received a letter fromthe National Security Departmentaddressed to its Chief Executive Benedict Rogers, accusing the group ofengaging in activities “jeopardising national security” such as “lobbying foreign countries to impose sanctions” and “other hostile activities”.
Hong Kong Watch said it was accused of violating Article 29 of the national security law, which criminalizes collusion with foreign forces, and that Rogers could face between three years in jail and life imprisonment for the offence.
Police confirmed they had blocked Hong Kong Watch’s website in Hong Kong as a result.
The Hong Kong government increasingly criminalizes the work of civil society organizations, accusing groups who form international partnerships or do peaceful international activism of “colluding with foreign forces.”
More than a hundred civil society organizations operating in Hong Kong have been forced to disband or relocate facing similar threats posed by the city’s national security law.
These included the Civil Human Rights Front, the umbrella group behind many of Hong Kong’s largest protests; the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (Hong Kong Alliance), which organized the city’s 1989 Tiananmen crackdown commemoration vigil; several union groups and independent media outlets.
The wording of the Hong Kong national security law asserts jurisdiction over people who are not residents of Hong Kong, including those who have never even set foot there. This means anyone in the world, regardless of nationality or location, can technically be deemed to have violated this law and face arrest and prosecution if they are in a Chinese jurisdiction, even for transit.