Amnesty International to Close its Hong Kong Offices

Amnesty International said Monday it would close two of its Hong Kong offices, citing concerns about the city’s national security laws.

The human rights organization has been present in Hong Kong for more than 40 years. The organization’s mission is to “raise awareness about human rights issues in the city.”

According to the organization, its local office will close at the end of October and its regional office will close at the end of the year.

The shutdown comes amid Hong Kong’s rapidly changing political climate under the national security law.

Following anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, China imposed a national security law for the city. The law prohibits secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers.

The law prompted tough crackdowns on dissidents, with dozens of activists charged under the law. Pro-democracy books were removed from libraries and schools, and political slogans were banned.

The law carries a penalty of life imprisonment. Since its enactment, dozens of pro-democracy activists have been indicted, with at least one jailed. Several local community organizations and Hong Kong trade unions have also come under pressure, with many shutting down.

Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chairman of Amnesty’s international board of directors, said in a press release that Hong Kong’s national security law had made it “impossible” for the human rights organization to work freely and without fear of retaliation from the government. “It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to continue operating in such an unstable environment,” Bais said in the statement.

A woman at Amnesty International's Hong Kong office.  (Photo: AFP)

A woman at Amnesty International’s Hong Kong office. (Photo: AFP)

Amnesty is headquartered in London with 10 million members and supporters worldwide, and operates in more than 70 countries.

The Hong Kong offices have a similar office in Bangkok, and Amnesty continues to conduct research and advocacy activities in other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

When FLY requesting further comment from the Hong Kong office, his response was directed to Kyle Ward, Amnesty’s Deputy Secretary General.

“Amnesty offices around the world will continue to monitor and respond to the human rights situation in Hong Kong. We do not diminish any role or resources dedicated to Hong Kong. Amnesty’s Hong Kong office is part of the regional office for East Asia and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, so the work being done in Hong Kong will continue as before, from different locations including in Bangkok and elsewhere in the region.”

Sari Arho Havren, a Brussels-based China analyst, told FLY that the closure of Amnesty’s Hong Kong office is concerning.

“The closure of Amnesty International’s regional office in Hong Kong is a troubling sign of how civil society in Hong Kong is disappearing and only pro-Beijing voices remain. When organizations like Amnesty are unable to operate again, vigilance must be strong in all democracies,” he said.

Eric Yan-ho Lai, legal and political analyst and scientist at Georgetown University School of Law, told FLY that the shutdown was “worrisome” given the organization’s international status.

“There have been more than 50 NGOs, student unions and trade unions that were dissolved or closed their offices in Hong Kong, but the closure by Amnesty International is more worrying because this is the first international NGO to declare its Hong Kong office closed,” he said.

“Amnesty International’s decision is a statement of distrust in the rule of law and an independent judiciary in my view,” he continued. [uh/ab]

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