Kenneth Roth, the rights group’s executive director, said on Sunday it was the first time he had been blocked at Hong Kong airport and had entered freely in the past.
The forthcoming HRW report looks at China‘s efforts to “deliberately undermine the international human rights system,” Roth said in a video posted on Twitter.
I flew to Hong Kong to release @HRW’s new World Report. This year it describes how the Chinese government is undermining the international human rights system. But the authorities just blocked my entrance to Hong Kong, illustrating the worsening problem. https://t.co/GRUaGh8QUb pic.twitter.com/iTHVEXdbwO
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) January 12, 2020
The move to bar Roth follows China’s pledge last month to sanction organisations that it said “performed badly” in relation to anti-government protests that have roiled Hong Kong for more than seven months.
Besides HRW, the National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House were among the groups cited for sanctions by Beijing.
During seven months of sometimes violent anti-government protests, the Chinese-ruled city has barred several activists, foreign journalists and an academic.
“This year [the new world report] describes how the Chinese government is undermining the international human rights system. But the authorities just blocked my entrance to Hong Kong, illustrating the worsening problem,” Roth said, adding that officials only cited “immigration reasons”.
The Hong Kong government had no immediate response to Reuters’ questions about why Roth was denied entry.
New York-based HRW had been scheduled to release its 652-page World Report 2020 at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong on January 15.
Roth would now launch the report on January 14 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the organisation said in a statement.
“This disappointing action is yet another sign that Beijing is tightening its oppressive grip on Hong Kong and further restricting the limited freedom Hong Kong people enjoy under ‘one country, two systems’,” Roth said in a statement released by HRW.
The rights group said a Chinese ministry of foreign affairs official had threatened to impose unspecified “sanctions” against it and several US-based pro-democracy organisations in early December.
Neither Beijing nor Hong Kong authorities have since provided further details, it added.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. Under the “one country, two systems” framework, the territory was promised greater democratic rights than are afforded to the mainland.
But protesters say their liberties have been steadily eroded under Chinese President Xi Jinping. Beijing denies interference and blames the West for fomenting the unrest.