Hong Kong Watch says it has been accused of violating China’s national security law
Pedestrians walk past a billboard for the national security law in Hong Kong, China, July 15, 2020. Hong Kong Watch said on Monday it had been targeted under the controversial law. Archive photo by Jérôme Favre/EPA-EFE
March 15 (UPI) — A British-based non-governmental human rights organization said Hong Kong authorities accused it of endangering China’s national security and demanded that it take down its website under the threat of a heavy fine or a prison sentence for its managing director.
Hong Kong Watch, which monitors threats to fundamental freedoms in the former British colony, announced the his website Monday that it is one of the first foreign organizations to be targeted under a controversial law that Beijing imposed on the city in July 2020.
The law, which has received widespread international condemnation, criminalizes long prison terms for acts broadly defined as secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and collaborating with foreign agencies to undermine China’s national security. .
In the letter received by Hong Kong Watch and posted on its website, the region’s national security office accuses the NGO of violating Article 29 of the new law, which concerns collusion with foreign forces to undermine China’s national security.
If the organization does not take down its website, the bureau warns it could face a fine of up to $100,000 or its chief executive, Benedict Rogers, could be sentenced to three years in prison .
“The criminal investigation reveals that ‘Hong Kong Watch’ has engaged in activities that seriously interfere in the affairs of Hong Kong SAR and endanger the national security of the People’s Republic of China,” it said. he said, referring to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by its initials.
“Such acts and activities, including pressuring foreign countries to impose sanctions or blockade and engaging in other hostile activities against the People’s Republic of China or the Hong Kong SAR, and seriously disrupting the formulation and the implementation of laws or policies by the Hong Kong SAR government or the people’s government, constitute the offense of collusion contrary to Article 29 of the National Security Law.”
UPI has contacted the Hong Kong National Security Bureau for comment.
“By threatening a UK-based NGO with financial penalties and prison for merely reporting on the human rights situation in Hong Kong, this letter illustrates why Hong Kong’s national security law is so dangerous. “, said Rogers. “We will not be silenced by an authoritarian security apparatus.
Liz Truss, UK Foreign Secretary, called the accusation against Hong Kong Watch an “unjustifiable action” which was “clearly an attempt to silence those who defend human rights in Hong Kong”.
“Attempting to silence the global voices that stand for freedom and democracy is unacceptable and will never succeed,” Truss said in A declaration.
Hong Kong Watch was founded in 2017, and Rogers, an outspoken critic of China, was banned entering the region in October.
Since the introduction of the national security law, dozens of protest leaders have been charged or have fled the region. It also led to the closure of several independent media outlets and, according to Hong Kong Watch, the closure of more than 50 civil society organizations.
While democratic countries, including the United States, have described the law as a cudgel used to silence dissent, Hong Kong officials insist it guarantees peace in the region.