“Dismantling of a free society”: human rights NGO denounces Hong Kong security law as “erasing” fundamental freedoms


Human Rights Watch accused Beijing of “beheading” Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, after the NGO released a lengthy report on the city a year after the national security law came into effect.

In a report titled “Dismantling a Free Society” released last Thursday, the human rights watchdog said basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong were “erased” under the Beijing-imposed security law June 30 of last year.

Photo: Government of Hong Kong.

Radical legislation, which prohibits secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, is said to have helped Beijing to “reshape” the city from being “predominantly free” to “dominated by the oppression of the Chinese Communist Party. “.

Human Rights Watch said the more than 100 arrests for national security reasons over the past year often had “dubious” justification. The arrest of 55 pro-democracy figures in January for alleged subversion in unofficial legislative primary elections also seriously undermined the campaign for democracy in the city, he said.

“Beijing has sought to decapitate the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong,” Human Rights Watch said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other government officials hailed the sweeping law as helping the city restore stability after months of violent protests in 2019. Authorities also said the law was aimed only at one ” small minority of people “who endanger national security.

Executive Director Carrie Lam. Photo: screenshot by GovHK.

The NGO criticized the Beijing-led electoral overhaul, which sought to exclude “anti-Chinese forces” from the local governance structure. He said that following the overhaul, the Legislative Council (LegCo), which was semi-democratic, would become a “buffer body”.

“Often, Beijing describes these measures as ‘reforms’ to ‘fill in the gaps’, euphemisms to attack hard-won freedoms,” the NGO said. “The ‘electoral reforms’ imposed on Hong Kong … effectively gutted the city’s competitive elections and replaced them with fictitious races in which only those loyal to Beijing can run for LegCo.”

The watchdog accused the Hong Kong government of restricting freedom of expression by banning the protest slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time”, which is considered pro-independence by authorities.

Protesters hold a flag bearing the slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” during a demonstration on July 1, 2020. Photo: Studio Incendo.

He also alleged that the government was imposing censorship on the local arts and film industry by removing a work of art by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei from the M + Museum and removing a film related to the protest. Inside the red brick wall cinemas.

Hong Kong media would be subject to “open censorship,” the watchdog said, citing a series of controversies surrounding public broadcaster RTHK and the now defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily. The latter ceased operations last week after the government froze the company’s assets on suspicion of breaching the security law. Its founder and media mogul Jimmy Lai, along with five senior executives, were arrested for alleged collusion with foreign forces.

In response to what he saw as an erosion of human rights in Hong Kong, the watchdog called on foreign governments to engage in multilateral action, including backing a call to form a special mandate in Hong Kong. United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor the human rights situation in the city.

A police banner warning of potential violations of the National Security Act. Photo: Kelly Ho / HKFP.

“To work with like-minded governments in international forums to promote and defend the human rights of the people of Hong Kong,” he said.

The watchdog also called for “coordinated and targeted sanctions” such as travel bans and the freezing of assets of Chinese and Hong Kong officials. Calls for sanctions have been branded as breaches of security law, with authorities viewing the acts as collusion with foreign powers.

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