Rights group chief banned for 'independence push'

Top News | Amy Nip and Reuters 14 Jan 2020

The head of Human Rights Watch was denied entry to Hong Kong because the nongovernment organization supports SAR independence advocates, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director, said he was turned away at Hong Kong airport for the first time on Sunday, after having entered freely in the past. He was supposed to launch the organization's latest world report.

In a press briefing in Beijing, Geng said there has been abundant evidence that the group incites people to commit extremely violent offenses and encourages independence advocacy. It has a big responsibility over the chaos in Hong Kong, Geng added.

"These groups should be sanctioned and pay the price," he said.

The watch, based in New York, had been scheduled to release its 652-page World Report 2020 at the Foreign Correspondents Club tomorrow.

"This year [the report] describes how the Chinese government is undermining the international human rights system," Roth tweeted.

"But the authorities just blocked my entrance to Hong Kong, illustrating the worsening problem."

Roth will instead launch the report today at the United Nations in New York, the watch 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," Roth said in the statement.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials had threatened to impose unspecified sanctions against the watch and several US-based pro-democracy organizations in early December. Neither Beijing nor Hong Kong authorities have since provided further details.

The threat came after the US Congress passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law.

The law now requires Washington to regularly assess Hong Kong's situation and facilitate potential sanctions against mainland and Hong Kong officials who harm human rights in the city.

Asked if Roth's ban was in retaliation for the new law, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Immigration Department said it did not comment on individual cases.

amy.nip@singtaonewscorp.com

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