Human Rights Watch Director Barred from Hong Kong, as Protesters Celebrate Taiwan Election

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, was barred entry to Hong Kong, where he planned to hold a press conference to release the organization’s annual report. Officials offered no reason for the move.

Neil Vigdor and Austin Ramzy report for The New York Times:

The barring of Mr. Roth, an American, from Hong Kong follows similar entry bans on a handful of journalists and human rights observers in recent years, raising concerns in a city that has long prided itself on upholding the democratic values of freedom of speech and information.

Hong Kong has been roiled by more than seven months of antigovernment protests rooted in anger at the encroachment of Chinese power on the semiautonomous territory. The local government is under pressure from the authorities in Beijing to restore order as well as defend its image abroad.

Human Rights Watch noted that Mr. Roth had previously visited Hong Kong many times, including in April 2018 to draw attention to a report on gender discrimination in the Chinese job market.

“It’s sad testament to the deterioration in basic freedoms in Hong Kong that I would be barred less than two years later,” he said by email. [Source]

The Chinese government has defended the move, casting blame on Human Rights Watch and other foreign organizations for supporting and even orchestrating the ongoing protest movement, which is in its seventh month. Throughout the protests, the Chinese government has blamed foreign “hostile forces” for fueling the unrest. In December, the government announced undefined “sanctions” on five U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, which it said had played an “egregious role” in the Hong Kong protests. AFP reports on today’s Foreign Ministry press briefing:

“Allowing or not allowing someone’s entry is China’s sovereign right,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

“Plenty of facts and evidence show that the relevant NGO has through various means supported anti-China radicals, encouraged them to engage in extremist, violent and criminal activity, and incited Hong Kong independence separatist activities,” Geng said.

“They bear major responsibility for the current chaos in Hong Kong. These organisations should be punished, and should pay the proper price.” [Source]

Protests in Hong Kong have continued, with protesters newly invigorated by election results in Taiwan, where the Democratic Progressive Party incumbent Tsai Ing-wen won in a landslide over Kuomintang’s Han Kuo-yu, who had been heavily favored by and supportive of the Chinese government. In local district council elections in Hong Kong in November, pro-democracy candidates soundly defeated Beijing-backed opponents. Alice Fung reports for AP on a rally in Hong Kong on Sunday:

Representatives of allied activist groups from Canada, Europe and Taiwan made remarks and led the attendees in chants of “Fight for freedom! Stand with Hong Kong!”

Speakers also celebrated the results of Saturday’s presidential election in Taiwan that saw the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen voted to a second term in a landslide.

Months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, have driven home to many in Taiwan the contrast between their democratically governed island and authoritarian mainland China.

“The Taiwanese demonstrated how peaceful it could be if we have democracy,” said rally organizer Ventus Lau.

“And we have to understand the Taiwanese fought hard in previous decades so that they can have this power today,” Lau said. “So if we want to have democracy like them, we need to fight hard and to continue our fight with the Communist Party.” [Source]

While the Hong Kong protests started in response to a proposed, and since scrapped, extradition law, the focus has since expanded and in recent months police violence has been at the top of many protesters’ lists of urgent concerns. A new report by the watchdog overseeing the Hong Kong Police Force has found “many shortcomings” in the police response to protests, according to a report from Iain Marlow and Natalie Lung at Bloomberg:

The 300-page report from the Independent Police Complaints Council found a failure to separate peaceful demonstrators from violent protesters, the newspaper reported Monday, citing unidentified people. The probe also determined there was a lack of communication among front-line police commanders during protests and insufficient “cease-fire” guidelines when using tear gas, the paper said.

The report, which hasn’t yet been officially released, is scheduled to be discussed at a meeting of the IPCC this week. If approved, it would be submitted to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam for possible release in the coming weeks. [Source]

The recent appointment of former Shanxi CCP chief Luo Huining as the head of the China liaison office in Hong Kong is expected by some to usher in a harder line on the protest movement.


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