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Hong Kong: Jail threat to UK group signals 'disturbing expansion' of crackdown

Hong Kong Watch CEO Benedict Rogers told he could face between three years in jail and life imprisonment

More than 100 organisations in HK - including Amnesty - have been forced to disband or relocate

‘This law can theoretically be used to prosecute anyone on the planet’ - Erwin van der Borght

Responding to news that the head of the UK human rights group Hong Kong Watch has been warned by the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Department that he may face a jail sentence under the territory’s notorious national security law, Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, 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.

“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.”

More than 100 groups targeted

Hong Kong Watch said today that it had received a letter from the National Security Department addressed to its Chief Executive, Benedict Rogers, accusing the group of engaging in activities “jeopardising national security” - including “lobbying foreign countries to impose sanctions” and “other hostile activities”. Hong Kong Watch said it is accused of violating Article 29 of the national security law, which criminalises 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 the city as a result.

The Hong Kong authorities increasingly criminalise the work of civil society organisations, accusing groups who form international partnerships or participate in peaceful international activism of “colluding with foreign forces”. More than 100 such groups operating in Hong Kong have been forced to disband or relocate after facing similar threats under the security law. These include 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 organised 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.

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