‘Unprecedented’ Hong Kong human rights setback over Security Law: Amnesty

Beijing, Mar 29 (EFE).- The National Security Law, in force since June 2020, has led to an “unprecedented” setback of human rights in Hong Kong, Amnesty International said in its annual report published Tuesday.

The organization, which closed its offices in the semi-autonomous city last year due to this regulation, said the entry into force of the law – drafted and imposed by Beijing – “enabled human rights violations that were unprecedented since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1997.”

According to the report, the extension of the application of the definition of “endangering national security” has been used “to disproportionately restrict human rights.”

This has led to a rapid deterioration of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, among others, Amnesty said.

The report spoke about the dissolution of at least 61 civil society organizations since the implementation of the law, “including Hong Kong’s largest professional union and organizers of major peaceful protests.”

“The political opposition in Hong Kong was effectively obliterated following the arrest of 55 people, mainly pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, under the NSL on 6 January,” it said.

Between Jul. 1, 2020 – when the law was enacted – and the end of 2021, 161 people were arrested under the law, out of which 82 were formally charged and 60 were in pretrial detention at the end of the year, according to Amnesty.

It also spoke about the “disproportionate” criminalization of the peaceful expression of political opinions, the retroactive use of the law and heavy sentences on individuals “peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

According to the report, in 2021, 24 activists were sentenced to up to 16 months in prison for “unauthorized assembly” after participating in the vigil held every year in Hong Kong to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown and which was banned for the second year in a row.

Organizations including the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and the Civil Human Rights Front were accused of “colluding with foreign forces,” the ​​report read.

It also said the “Hong Kong government further tightened controls over freedom of expression in the media, online and in schools and universities”, with access to websites that allegedly “endanger national security” being suspended.

Teachers and students were also arrested, including student activist Tony Chung, sentenced to three years and seven months for “trumped-up charges of sedition and money laundering.”

The organization spoke about the arrest in January of 55 political opponents and the subsequent conviction of 47 of them for organizing and participating in self-organized “primaries” for the 2021 Legislative Council elections, later postponed.

The document also reviewed the decline in press freedom in Hong Kong, illustrated by the closure of Apple Daily, the only pro-democracy newspaper in the former British colony.

Its founder Jimmy Lai, was arrested along with seven others “for publishing articles relating to sanctions imposed on Chinese and Hong Kong government officials by foreign governments.”

Other examples cited are that of online news website Stand News, whose senior executives and board members were also arrested and whose assets – some $7.8 million – were frozen, as well as the “restructuring” of public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong “dismissing hosts who were critical of the government, and canceling shows that did not follow official lines.” EFE


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