December 5, 2021

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Amnesty from Hong Kong: 'Democracy is in rapid decline'

Amnesty from Hong Kong: ‘Democracy is in rapid decline’

Amnesty has been in Hong Kong for decades. From the city-state, the organization kept an eye on China, because they had not been allowed in there for years. Now they are leaving Hong Kong voluntarily. Amnesty will not be expelled from the country, but rapid changes are forcing them to choose.

Beginning of the End

The reason is the security law passed by China last year. “That was the beginning of the end,” said Rod Buscrave of Amnesty International. “The law makes the work of journalists and activists very difficult, and this applies to us as well. Freedom of work is over.”

In Hong Kong, critical newspapers were closed after the law, trade unions and pro-democracy parties were dissolved and student leaders were arrested. Another example: the museum that commemorates the suppression of the protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989, decided to close its doors. The employees were afraid of arrest.

Forgiveness is not out of scope

“Democracy is rapidly declining,” Bosgrave says. “We must fear the worst ahead.” These will be reasons for Amnesty International’s survival, but the organization also fears that it will come into the sights of the authorities.

“Large international organizations often have a bit more protection than local ones, but we are not immune,” Bosgrave says.

Security Code

China introduced a national security law last year after mass protests in Hong Kong. It gives authorities wide options for dealing with activists.

In 1997, the United Kingdom, the former colonizer of Hong Kong, handed over the crown colony to China. It was agreed that China would adhere to the “one country, two systems” principle. It will not interfere with Hong Kong’s free market economy, democracy and an independent judiciary.

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Human rights organizations say this ended with the new security law. China says the law is necessary to restore stability to Hong Kong.

Even if there is no demand to leave, a country can still make work impossible. This is happening in India, for example, Bosgrave explains, where AI has been out of work for a year. “They are investigating our finances, but that really means complicating our work.” Amnesty India is critical of the way the government treats minorities.

AI does not want to wait for this kind of obstruction tactic. The organization is looking for a custodian in Asia to continue the monetary monitoring of the governments of China and Hong Kong. The decision is not token yet. Thai Bangkok might be an option.

Many important Hong Kong residents have already moved abroad. The other option, Bosgrave says, is to keep your mouth shut. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll be behind bars in no time. “Our departure will hurt people, but they will not be surprised.”