Amnesty International has announced that 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.
- Amnesty says national security law makes it “effectively impossible” for rights groups to operate in Hong Kong
- Groups dissolved under the law include NGOs and several large unions
- Hong Kong officials say smuggled Australian lobsters pose a threat to China’s national security
The human rights group said its local office in Hong Kong will close this month while its regional office will close by the end of the year as regional operations move to other offices. from the Asia-Pacific region.
“This decision, taken with a heavy heart, was prompted by the Hong Kong National Security Act, which effectively made it impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to operate freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the part of the government, “Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chairman of the board of directors of Amnesty, said in a statement.
Hong Kong implemented a sweeping national security law in 2020 after months of massive anti-government protests.
The law prohibits secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and foreign collusion to interfere in city affairs.
More than 120 people, many of them supporters of the city’s democratic movement, have been arrested under the law.
The majority of the city’s main pro-democracy activists are behind bars for participating in unauthorized rallies, and dozens of political organizations and unions have gone out of business for the personal safety of their members under the security law.
Ms Bais said the recent targeting of local human rights groups and trade unions indicated that authorities were stepping up their campaign to rid the city of dissenting voices.
“It is increasingly difficult for us to continue to operate in such an unstable environment,” she said.
In the past, Hong Kong had been one of Asia’s main NGO hubs, with groups drawn to its strong rule of law and broad autonomy – guaranteed for Hong Kong when control of the former British colony collapsed. visited Beijing in 1997.
Among the groups that were disbanded this year are several major unions, NGOs and professional groups, while a number of other NGOs, including the New School for Democracy, have moved to the democratic island of Taiwan.
Critics in Hong Kong say the national security law is an erosion of freedoms, such as those of speech and assembly.
Australian lobsters caught in “national security” crackdown
Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s new customs chief Louise Ho cited the alleged smuggling of Australian lobsters to the Chinese mainland as part of a national security safeguard mission.
“At first glance, this is just a normal smuggling, lobster smuggling business. But in reality, these smuggling activities would undermine the country’s trade restrictions on Australia,” said Ms Ho, wife. Hong Kong Minister of Constitution and Continental Affairs Erick Tsang. , noted.
“Therefore, tackling lobster smuggling activity is an important task to protect national security.”
Authorities in Hong Kong and the mainland seized approximately US $ 540,000 ($ 72,000) of smuggled Australian lobsters believed to be destined for the mainland after China restricted shellfish imports amid escalating tensions with Australia.
Hong Kong officials said their customs and Chinese law enforcement confiscated about 5,300 kilograms of lobster and arrested 13 people.
The seizure came after a recent increase in the volume of imports of Australian lobsters to Hong Kong after China imposed an unofficial ban on imports late last year.
Authorities said monthly imports of Australian lobster into Hong Kong had since more than doubled.
China’s lobster ban came after the Australian government called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. China has since blocked trade in other Australian imports, such as wine, barley, cotton and coal.
Yarns / ABC