| 8 February 2023, Wednesday |

U.K.-based rights group says Hong Kong police accused it of violating security law

Hong Kong police have accused the UK-based rights group Hong Kong Watch of “collusion with foreign forces,” which the group described as a “likely” breach of China’s national security law.

The Hong Kong Police said in a March 10 letter to Benedict Rogers, the president of the U.K.-based rights group, that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting Rogers and the group of carrying content on their website “likely to constitute an offence harming national security.”

The letter didn’t say what information on the website ( the authorities considered objectionable, but it did offer screenshots of pages, including one labeled “Free Hong Kong Political Prisoners.”

The Hong Kong Security Bureau accused the group of “seriously interfering” in Hong Kong’s affairs by urging foreign countries to apply sanctions against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, according to a separate email obtained by Reuters.

The US government sanctioned Hong Kong and Chinese officials in 2020 and 2021, including city leader Carrie Lam and key police personnel.

Despite authorities’ demands that he take down the website, Rogers of Hong Kong Watch said he will “redouble” his efforts to raise awareness of Hong Kong’s deteriorating human rights situation.

“This letter shows why Hong Kong’s national security law is so hazardous,” Rogers said in a news release on Monday, threatening a UK-based NGO with financial penalties and jail time for just reporting on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. “We will not be silenced by an authoritarian security force that has caused rapid mass migration out of the city and shut down civil society through a combination of needless cruelty and inefficiency.”

Requests for comment from the Hong Kong Police Force and the Hong Kong Security Bureau were not immediately returned.

Given the “very remote” prospect that he would be targeted, Rogers told Reuters that he would take extra security steps, including determining whether he could travel safely through nations having extradition treaties with Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Watch website has been inaccessible in the financial hub for several months without a VPN (virtual private network), according to the organisation.

More than 160 people have been arrested under the security law since it was adopted in June 2020, including renowned democratic campaigners such as Joshua Wong, Benny Tai, Tiffany Yuen, Gwyneth Ho, Chow Hang-tung, and Sam Cheung.

Subversion, secession, coordination with foreign forces, and terrorism are all punishable by up to life in prison under the law.

Offenses against the government committed by non-permanent inhabitants outside the city are covered by Article 38 of the law.

Since the law’s implementation, more than 50 civil society or human rights organizations have been compelled to dissolve.

When the former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, people were promised a high degree of autonomy and liberties not available in mainland China under the “One Country, Two Systems” government model.

  • Reuters