UK-based rights group accuses Hong Kong police of breaching security law | world news

By Jessie Pang and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police have accused the UK-based rights group Hong Kong Watch of “collusion with foreign forces”, a “likely” violation of the national security law imposed by China, the group announced on Monday.

In a March 10 letter seen by Reuters to Benedict Rogers, who heads the UK-based rights group, Hong Kong police said there were reasonable grounds to suspect Rogers and the group had disseminated content on their website “likely to constitute an offense endangering national security”.

The letter did not specify what content authorities deemed problematic on the website (www.hongkongwatch.org), but did include screenshots of pages, including one titled “Free Hong Kong Political Prisoners.”

In a separate email also reviewed by Reuters, the Hong Kong Security Bureau accused the group of ‘seriously interfering’ in Hong Kong affairs by pressuring foreign countries to impose sanctions against the governments of Hong Kong and China.

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Hong Kong and Chinese officials, including city leader Carrie Lam and senior police officers, have been sanctioned by the US government in 2020 and 2021.

Hong Kong Watch’s Rogers said that although authorities demanded he take down the website, he would “double up” his efforts to raise awareness of the deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong.

“By threatening a UK-based NGO with financial penalties and prison for merely reporting on the human rights situation in Hong Kong, this letter illustrates why Hong Kong’s national security law is so dangerous. “, Rogers said in a press release Monday. “We will not be silenced by an authoritarian security apparatus which, through a mixture of senseless brutality and ineptitude, has triggered rapid mass migration out of the city and crippled civil society.”

Hong Kong Police and the Hong Kong Security Bureau did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rogers told Reuters he would take additional security precautions, including assessing whether it was safe to travel to countries that have extradition treaties with Hong Kong, given the “remote” possibility that it can be targeted.

The Hong Kong Watch site has been inaccessible in the financial hub for several months without a VPN (virtual private network), the group had said earlier.

Since the security law was signed into law in June 2020, more than 160 people have been arrested under it, including prominent Democratic activists such as Joshua Wong, Benny Tai, Tiffany Yuen, Gwyneth Ho, Chow Hang- tung and Sam Cheung.

The legislation punishes subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism up to life imprisonment.

Section 38 of the Act applies to offenses committed against the government by non-permanent residents outside the city.

More than 50 civil society organizations or advocacy groups have been forced to disband since the law was implemented.

Hong Kong residents were promised a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not permitted in mainland China under the “One Country, Two Systems” model of governance when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

(Reporting by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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