Truss condemns China and Hong Kong authorities over threat to ‘silence’ critics

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the action by the administrations in Beijing and Hong Kong was “unjustifiable”.

14 March 2022

The UK accused the authorities in China and Hong Kong of an unjustified assault on free speech after a human rights organisation was threatened under a “draconian” security law.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the warning sent to UK-based charity Hong Kong Watch was “unjustifiable”.

The formal warning was sent to Hong Kong Watch under the National Security Law, controversial legislation which the Government claimed breaches the joint declaration signed by the UK and China which was meant to guarantee a high degree of autonomy for the former British colony.

In a statement, Hong Kong Watch said it had received a formal warning from the Hong Kong police claiming its website potentially breached the law.

“This makes Hong Kong Watch one of the first foreign organisations to be targeted under the draconian law,” the statement said.

The letter accuses Hong Kong Watch of violating Article 29 of the National Security Law “which criminalises collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security”.

It warns that Hong Kong Watch could face a fine of HK$100,000 (£9,793) or its chief executive Benedict Rogers could face three years in jail for the offence.

Mr Rogers said: “By threatening a UK-based NGO (non-governmental organisation) with financial penalties and jail for merely reporting on the human rights situation in Hong Kong, this letter exemplifies why Hong Kong’s National Security Law is so dangerous.”

Ms Truss said: “The unjustifiable action taken against the UK-based NGO Hong Kong Watch is clearly an attempt to silence those who stand up for human rights in Hong Kong.

“The Chinese Government and Hong Kong authorities must respect the universal right to freedom of speech, and uphold that right in Hong Kong in accordance with international commitments, including the Joint Declaration.

“Attempting to silence voices globally that speak up for freedom and democracy is unacceptable and will never succeed.”

Lord Patten of Barnes, the last British governor of Hong Kong and a patron of Hong Kong Watch, said: “This is another disgraceful example of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s friends in Beijing and their quislings in Hong Kong trying not only to stamp out freedom of expression and information in Hong Kong but also to internationalise their campaign against evidence, freedom and honesty.”

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