Hong Kong: Authorities declare global war on free speech

Hong Kong: Authorities declare global war on free speech - Civic Space

Photo by Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong authorities have ordered the UK-based human rights organisation Hong Kong Watch to shut down their website for allegedly violating Article 29 of the National Security Law, which criminalises collusion with foreign forces. Authorities also threatened the organisation’s founder Benedict Rogers, who is a British citizen, with imprisonment. In its notice, directed to Mr. Rogers, the Hong Kong National Security Bureau claimed that the organisation had been ‘engaging in activities seriously interfering in the affairs of [Hong Kong] and jeopardising national security of the People’s Republic of China.’ The notice continued that the organisation could face a fine of up to HK$100,000 (approximately USD 12,775).

The draconian National Security Law imposes the vaguely defined crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, carrying maximum penalties of life imprisonment, and claims extraterritoriality over non-Hong Kong residents for alleged crimes outside of Hong Kong.

Michael Caster, Asia Digital Programme Manager, said:

“While we have been watching in real time as Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have crushed civil society and imposed sweeping censorship, even pursuing exiled Hong Kong democracy leaders abroad, the recent demand on Hong Kong Watch and the threat of criminal action against its founder is the most brazen act of extraterritorial reach under the National Security Law yet.”

“With this abhorrent attempt to impose authoritarian rule beyond its borders, we are way past issuing alarm bells of things to come. The international threat to human rights posed by China is already here when it is emboldened to demand global censorship and threaten the imprisonment of foreign citizens whose only crime has been speaking out for the rights of the Hong Kong people.”

“It is absurd to charge a foreign organisation under Hong Kong Law with collusion with foreign forces. The fact is, this is about punishing Hong Kong Watch and Benedict Rogers for their courageous advocacy and sending out a terrifying signal to all international civil society that you could be next.”

For more information

Michael Caster, Asia Digital Programme Manager, michaelcaster@article19.org.