The denial of entry into Hong Kong of the executive director of Human Rights Watch has been characterised by Chinese officials as ‘paying the price’ for inciting protests in the city-state.
HRW director Kenneth Roth was denied entry by immigration officials at Hong Kong airport on Sunday, January 12. A video he posted on Twitter from the airport shows him being put back on a flight to the US because of an unspecified “immigration problem”, with officials refusing to provide further information.
But at a news conference on Monday (Jan. 13), the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang lashed out at Mr Roth’s New York-based organisation, accusing Human Rights Watch of instigating “anti-China activists” to “engage in radical violent crimes, and incite separatist activities hyping Hong Kong independence”.
Hong Kong citizens have been taking to the streets, sometimes in their millions, in mass demonstrations since June last year. The movement began in protest against a new extradition law, which was eventually dropped, but snowballed into an expression of broader anger at Beijing’s rule.
According to Mr Geng, however, it was in fact groups such as Human Rights Watch who were to blame for the crisis. International NGOs, he said, “deserve sanctions and must pay a price”.
Mr Roth had been travelling to Hong Kong to launch his organisation’s annual World Report, which he said was going to focus particularly on China’s efforts to “deliberately undermine the international human rights system… not simply suppressing rights of people at home but also undermining the ability of anybody else to hold China to human rights standards”.
Experts had previously called the choice to launch the report in Hong Kong itself significant. It will now be unveiled at a press conference in New York instead, Mr Roth said.
In a series of tweets upon his return to the US, Mr Roth said he had previously travelled freely to Hong Kong, including as recently as April 2018 when he released a report on gender discrimination in the Chinese job market.
“Sadly this episode is just the latest evidence that the Chinese government is doing everything it can to undermine the enforcement of international human rights standards,” he said.
Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch’s China programme, told The Independent, that Beijing’s statement on Monday “raises questions about whether Hong Kong actually has any autonomy on these matters”.
She described blaming foreign interference as “one of the authoritarian’s favourite dodges”. “These remarks are especially insulting to the millions of people across Hong Kong who has – of their own volition – come out week after week, in the heat and the pouring rain, to peacefully demonstrate for their rights,” she said. (Source: Independent UK)