Amnesty International says that the persecution it suffers in Hong Kong due to the security law imposed by the Chinese regime on the island has forced it to decide to close its offices after almost 40 years of presence in the city.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), Amnesty, with its closure, would become the last non-governmental organization to cease its operations in Hong Kong due to the “serious reprisals” faced by dissidents on the island. 

The human rights organization, which was set up in Hong Kong in 1990, announced the closure of its local office by October 31, while the one dealing with regional affairs would close by the end of the year, and the organization’s other Asia-Pacific headquarters would absorb the latter operations.

Amnesty International board chairman Anjhula Mya Singh Bais said in a statement: 

“This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong’s national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organisations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government.”

He added that “the recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signals an intensification of the authorities’ campaign to rid the city of all dissenting voices.”

But for lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding, vice chairman of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party, the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the organization is lying in its claims that it cannot work for fear of reprisals, stating that he was “deeply disappointed” by its statement.

“It is outrageous for any organisation to smear the national security law by unnecessarily closing their branches here,” Chow said.

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed the national security law in Hong Kong effective June 30, 2020, which established a security force acting on the orders of the CCP, anyone who demonstrates in defense of democracy and against communism is punished with harsh sentences ranging from secession, sedition, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism broadly defined.

Under these offenses, dozens of pro-democracy activists, including former opposition legislators, have been arrested for participating in unauthorized assemblies. In addition, most political organizations and trade unions have ceased their activities due to persecution. 

One of the recent events that had worldwide relevance was the arrest in September of the members of the pro-democracy organization in charge of the annual memorial of the 1989 Beijing Tiananmen massacre, which was held every year in a Hong Kong city park called Victoria Park.

Agnes Callamard told the Post that Amnesty was taking “a lot more” precautions in carrying out its work than before the passage of the security law.

Callamard at the time did not rule out the organization leaving Hong Kong altogether, saying the possibility was “a source of anguish, a source of pain in fact.”

Following Monday’s announcement, Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of the human rights group, called the decision “devastating,” after she had told SCMP in April, “There are difficult days ahead for human rights in Hong Kong,” and did not rule out the organization leaving the island altogether. 

Meanwhile, for human rights lawyer Mark Daly, Amnesty’s decision to leave the island “speaks volumes about Hong Kong’s downward spiral with respect to the rule of law” there. 

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