US slams rights abuses

Local | Phoenix Un 15 Mar 2019

The US State Department has criticized the Beijing and SAR governments for jointly restricting the expression of dissenting political views last year, particularly in banning a pro-independence party and legislating the anthem law.

The department submits the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices to the US Congress every year, and the 2018 report was publicized early yesterday morning (HK time).

It devoted 126 pages to the situation in China, and 15 pages exclusively to Hong Kong.

"During the year, however, some SAR and central government actions restricted or sought to restrict the right to express or report on dissenting political views, particularly support for Hong Kong independence," the report said.

It particularly highlighted the SAR government banning the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party last fall.

"The government's ban was the first time it banned a political party since the establishment of the SAR government in 1997," it said. "The ban came after repeated SAR and Chinese central government warnings that advocacy for Hong Kong independence 'crosses a red line.'"

The report then said Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs attempted to pressure the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong to cancel the event in August in which then-National Party convener Andy Chan Ho-tin gave a speech, but failed.

Subsequently, in October, the SAR government refused to renew the work visa of Victor Mallet, then the FCC's acting president who hosted Chan's event, and later denied his re-entry even as a tourist, the report said.

The report also mentioned the national anthem bill which was under lawmaking process in the Legislative Council, saying "there were some legal restrictions on the ability of individuals to criticize the government publicly without reprisal."

A SAR government spokesman said the One Country, Two Systems principle has been fully and successfully implemented, adding: "foreign governments should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR."

Chan replied that the report showed the thorough knowledge of the US side about Hong Kong, and the Americans might work on the US-HK Policy Act in the future.

Meanwhile, the report also criticized the Chinese government significantly for intensifying its campaign of mass detention of Muslim minority groups in re-education camps, which Beijing called "vocational training centers" in Xinjiang province. There were reports of custodial deaths, as well as systematic torture by officers.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China was "in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations."

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