Human rights group Amnesty International said Monday it will close its two offices in Hong Kong this year, becoming the latest non-governmental organization to cease operations amid a crackdown on political dissent in the city.
The group said its local office in Hong Kong will close this month and its regional office will close by the end of the year, with operations relocated to other offices in the Asia-Pacific region.
“This decision, taken with a heavy heart, is driven by Hong Kong national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious retaliation by government, ”said Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, Amnesty International’s board chair, in a statement.
Mainland China enacted a comprehensive National Security Act in Hong Kong in 2020 after months of massive anti-government protests. The law outlaws secession, the overthrow of state power, terrorism, and foreign cooperation to interfere in the affairs of the city. More than 120 people, many of them supporters of the city’s democratic movement, have been arrested under the law.
Most prominent pro-democracy activists in the city have been arrested for participating in unauthorized assemblies, and dozens of political organizations and unions have suspended work due to concerns about the safety of their members under security law.
Bais said the recent targeting of local human rights groups and unions signaled that authorities are intensifying their campaign to clear the city of dissenting voices. “It is increasingly difficult for us to continue to operate in such an unstable environment,” she said.
In a June report, Georgetown University Center for Asian Law said the National Security Act reflects legislation in mainland China that severely restricts contacts between local and international NGOs and threatens activists with imprisonment for allegedly collaborating with foreign forces.
“It is disturbing – and contrary to international law – to see Hong Kong’s ‘national security’ law similarly stifling civil society and free speech in the territory,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at the NGO Human Rights Watch.
“The degree of oversight and the vague prohibitions of the National Security Act make contacts between Hong Kong people and those outside the territory who may be subject to prosecution, in order to prevent the exchange of information,” she said.
Critics in Hong Kong say the National Security Act eroded freedoms, such as those of expression and assembly, promised to the city for 50 years when the former British colony was ceded to China in 1997.
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