Hong Kong Denies Entry to Human Rights Watch Director, Group Says

A prominent human rights activist said he was denied entry into Hong Kong on Sunday by immigration authorities, whom he accused of trying to stymie the release of a report spotlighting repressive governments around the world.

The activist, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter and in a statement that he was turned away at Hong Kong International Airport after arriving from New York and was told he was being blocked for “immigration reasons.”

Mr. Roth, a United States citizen, had planned to hold a news conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday to discuss the findings of an annual report issued by his organization on the human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.

In the opening essay of the 652-page World Report, Mr. Roth criticizes China for “carrying out an intensive attack on the global system for enforcing human rights.” Human Rights Watch noted that Mr. Roth had previously visited Hong Kong numerous times, including in April 2018 to draw attention to a report on gender discrimination in the Chinese job market.

“My denial of entry pales in comparison to the harassment that Chinese activists routinely endure — jail, torture and enforced disappearance simply for trying to secure basic rights for their fellow citizens,” Mr. Roth said in the statement.

Mr. Roth will instead hold the news conference on Tuesday at the United Nations in New York.

A representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the local governing body, was not immediately available for comment. A request for comment was also left for the Chinese government office that oversees Hong Kong and Macau.

The refusal to grant Mr. Roth access to Hong Kong came amid the continuing standoff by pro-democracy protesters and the local authorities who are backed by mainland China’s communist government.

The turmoil has strained relations between the United States and China, with President Trump signing legislation in November that authorized sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses. At the same time, Mr. Trump has been trying to negotiate a trade deal with Chinese leaders.

Credit…Alexander Becher/EPA, via Shutterstock

The strife has also created tensions in the professional sports world. In October, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, posted an image on Twitter supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and LeBron James faced backlash for saying that Mr. Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand.”

In December, China announced it would impose “sanctions” against several pro-democracy nonprofit organizations based in the United States, including Human Rights Watch.

No further explanation of the so-called sanctions was given, the organization said on Sunday. It pointed out that China’s government had blocked other human rights observers, a photographer and a scholar from visiting Hong Kong because they had voiced criticism of mainland China’s government.

“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,’” Mr. Roth said. “Concerned governments should take a firm stand against China’s creeping repression that massive numbers of people have protested against for months.”

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