Pedestrians walk past a billboard for the National Security Law in Hong Kong, China, July 15, 2020. On Monday, Hong Kong Watch said it has been targeted under the controversial law. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE
March 15 (UPI) -- A Britain-based non-governmental human rights organization said Hong Kong authorities have accused it of endangering China's national security, and have demanded it remove its website under threat of a hefty fine or jail time for its chief executive.
Hong Kong Watch, which monitors threats to the former British colony's basic freedoms, announced on its website Monday that it is one of the first foreign organizations to be targeted under a controversial law Beijing imposed on the city in July 2020.
The law, which came under widespread international condemnation, criminalizes with lengthy jail terms acts that are widely defined as secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign agencies to undermine China's national security.
In the letter Hong Kong Watch received and published on its website, the region's national security bureau accuses the NGO of violating Article 29 of the new law, which concerns colluding with foreign forces to undermine China's national security.
If the organization does not remove its website, the bureau warns that it could face a fine up to $100,000 or its chief executive, Benedict Rogers, could be sentenced to three years imprisonment.
"Criminal investigation reveals that 'Hong Kong Watch' has been engaging in activities seriously interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR and jeopardizing national security of the People's Republic of China," it said, referring to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by its initials.
"Such acts and activities, including lobbying foreign countries to impose sanctions or blockade and engage in other hostile activities against the People's republic of China or the HKSAR, and seriously disrupting the formulation and implementation of laws of policies by the HKSAR Government or by the Central People's Government, constitute the Collusion Offence contrary to Article 29 of the National Security law."
UPI has contacted the Hong Kong's National Security Bureau for comment.
"By threatening a U.K.-based NGO with financial penalties and jail for merely reporting on the human rights situation in Hong Kong, this letter exemplifies why Hong Kong's National Security law is so dangerous," Rogers said. "We will not be silenced by an authoritarian security apparatus.
Liz Truss, Britain's foreign secretary, called the accusation against Hong Kong Watch as an "unjustifiable action" that was "clearly an attempt to silence those who stand up for human rights in Hong Kong.
"Attempting to silence voices globally that speak up for freedom and democracy is unacceptable and will never succeed," Truss said in a statement.
Hong Kong Watch was founded in 2017, and Rogers, a vocal critic of China, was barred entry to the region that October.
Since the national security law was put in place, dozens of protest leaders have either been charged or fled the region. It has also resulted in several independent media organizations to close and, according to Hong Kong Watch, more than 50 civil society organizations to shutter.
While democratic countries, including the United States, have described the law as a cudgel used to silence dissent, Hong Kong officials insist it is ensuring peace in the region is maintained.