Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has refused to provide details behind her government’s decision to block the director of an international Human Rights Group from entering the city.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth was denied entry into Hong Kong on Jan. 12. He was set to announce the release of the organization’s annual human rights report in the city.
“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.
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said it was China’s “sovereign right” to decide who should be granted entry in a daily press conference on Jan. 13. Without naming the HRW directly, Shuang also accused NGOs of “inciting violence” and supporting “rioters” in Hong Kong.
“We will not comment on individual cases. The immigration authorities will deal with each case, based on the existing legislation and existing immigration policies taking into account the actual circumstances of the case,” Lam said in her weekly press conference when asked whether the decision to deny Roth’s entry was a political one.
HRW has been critical of Hong Kong authorities over its proposed extradition laws that triggered mass protests in June. In an August statement, HRW condemned Hong Kong police for using “excessive force” against protesters.
In another statement in December, HRW pointed out how journalists were being targeted by police, and that the Hong Kong authorities were limiting some protests by denying permits.
China’s Mysterious Pneumonia
Also at the press conference, Lam commented on the pneumonia outbreak in China that has Hong Kong people concerned about spread of the disease.
Lam said that Hong Kong has sent a delegation to Wuhan, the Chinese city that reported an outbreak of a new strain of pneumonia that so far has been linked to one death. On Jan. 11, Chinese authorities released the complete genetic sequence of the coronavirus affecting patients in Wuhan.
Lam added that the delegation is expected to return to Hong Kong this evening, and that she would provide further updates after a scheduled meeting with local health experts tomorrow.
While there have been people with pneumonia-like symptoms in Hong Kong, Lam said that no cases in Hong Kong have been linked to the Wuhan virus.
One reporter, referring to a confirmed case of the new virus in Thailand, asked Lam: “Do you think it is a bit suspicious when China said no cases have been reported in other provinces?”
Lam replied that China was working with the World Health Organization, and was communicating with Hong Kong on this issue.
“Beyond that, it is not for me to comment on how another authority has been dealing with the situation in their justification,” Lam said.
Backlog in Courts
On Jan. 13, Hong Kong’s Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma announced the creation of a task force to “look into how best and how expeditiously” to deal with the large backlog in cases due to the ongoing pro-democracy protests, according to local media RTHK.
Ma suggested that extra measures be introduced, including the extension of judges’ sitting hours.
Since June, when mass protests broke out in Hong Kong over a now fully-withdrawn extradition bill, local police have arrested over 6,000 people.
Lam said during the press conference that she was “extremely grateful to the judiciary for devising various means” in an effort to speed up the processing of cases.
Taiwan Election Result Ignored
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s landslide victory in the Jan. 11 presidential election was conspicuously absent from Lam’s comments.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, numerous U.S. lawmakers, and many other governments, including Japan, the European Union, and Canada, have all congratulated Tsai on her reelection. In doing so, they were accused by Shuang the next day of “violating” the “one-China principle.”
Shuang had claimed on Jan. 12 that Taiwan’s election was a “sub-national affair in China.”
Many Hongkongers traveled to Taiwan to witness the democratic election. According to Hong Kong’s mini constitution, Hongkongers do not vote directly for their top leader, the chief executive. Universal suffrage has been one of the key demands of the on-going protests.
At a rally supporting Tsai and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taipei on Jan. 11, two Hongkongers shared with The Epoch Times about their trip to Taiwan.
Justin, a 24-year-old college student, said that Tsai’s victory would likely “put some pressure on the Hong Kong government” to allow for democratic elections in the city.
Another Hongkonger, Tony, 30, explained his support for Tsai.
“Unlike Carrie Lam who called us ‘rioters,’ Tsai knows that we are working hard to safeguard our freedom,” the accountant said.