China Bans Human Rights Watch Head from Hong Kong

Human Rights Watch organization executive director, US Kenneth Roth, speaks during a press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on October 16, 2019. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP) (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

Hong Kong’s Chinese-controlled authorities blocked the entry of the executive director of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, on Sunday.

In a Twitter post, Roth confirmed that authorities in Hong Kong International Airport had denied his entry days before he planned to hold a press conference to release a new report focusing on China’s grave violations of human rights.

“I flew to Hong Kong to release [Human Rights Watch] new World Report,” he wrote. “This year it describes how the Chinese government is undermining the international human rights system. But the authorities just blocked my entrance to Hong Kong, illustrating the worsening problem.”

In an accompanying video, Roth said that the focus of the report would also describe how Chinese authorities were “not simply trying to suppress the rights of people at home, but undermine the ability of anybody else to hold China to human rights standards.”

“Sadly as I arrived here, the Chinese government decided it didn’t want to let me in,” he continued. “So although I have been able to enter Hong Kong freely before, this time, for the first time, they blocked me. … 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.”

In a typically brazen report, the English-language Chinese propaganda outlet Global Times cited a number of pro-China “analysts” as saying that refusing Roth’s entry was a “reasonable decision.”

The Times began their report:

The decision to bar the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) from entering Hong Kong is a reasonable move, as his presence would likely instigate riots which have rocked the city for months and the Chinese authorities have decided to sanction several US-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including HRW for their interference in China’s domestic affairs in the city.

The outlet went on to note how the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced sanctions against numerous non-governmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, last month. These sanctions were imposed on the basis that such organizations had “supported anti-China forces that have created chaos in the city, and encouraged those forces to engage in extreme violent criminal acts and hyped separatist activities in Hong Kong.”

The report, which will now be unveiled in New York, is likely to focus primarily on the abuses and excessive violence carried out by police and other security forces in response to pro-democracy demonstrations that broke out last year after the proposal of an extradition bill by Hong Kong’s pro-China CEO Carrie Lam that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to China for trial.

The movement has since morphed into a wider resistance against China’s interference in the region’s internal affairs, undermining the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement signed in 1997 following Hong Kong’s handover from the British Empire. Some of the protester’s demands include an investigation into police brutality, the release of all political prisoners, and reforms to their voting system that would allow them to directly elect their leader.

In a statement published on the Human Rights Watch website, Roth sought to remind people that his denial of entry was a sideshow compared to the regime’s abuses, not just in Hong Kong, but across China.

“My denial of entry pales in comparison to the harassment that Chinese activists routinely endure – jail, torture, and enforced disappearance simply for trying to secure basic rights for their fellow citizens,” he explained. “But China’s efforts to interfere with the work of international groups like Human Rights Watch is a form of global censorship that governments should resist before it’s too late.”

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