On the face of it, Benedict Rogers and Kenneth Roth have much in common. Rogers, a minor political functionary with links to Britain's governing Conservative Party, co-founded Hong Kong Watch, a London-based think tank specializing in criticisms of the Hong Kong government, in 2017. Roth, a former prosecutor, is the executive director — and frontman — of the long-established, New York-based Human Rights Watch, which operates across five continents, and, under the guise of promoting human rights, does much to advance America's foreign policy agenda, including in the Far East.
Both individuals, moreover, have been denied permission to enter Hong Kong, each peddles distortions and half-truths about the situation in Hong Kong, and both grab every opportunity to traduce China.
However, while Rogers, a neophyte, is a loose cannon, never letting the facts get in the way of his prejudices, Roth, although no less devious, is more experienced, and tends to be more careful.
After, for example, the police arrested a protester for criminal damage outside the British Consulate General in Hong Kong on Jan 11, Rogers immediately accused them of impropriety. Although the police explained that they had simply responded to a crime report from the consulate, Rogers called their behavior “extremely concerning”, and urged the British government “to issue an urgent statement both in defence of the right to peaceful protest and its own boundaries and diplomatic protocols”.
Although, on Jan 14, the UK Foreign Office did indeed issue a statement, it was certainly not the one Rogers wanted. It confirmed that its consulate had advised the police “of a potential criminal act being committed outside the consulate”, as a result of which an individual was arrested. It then clarified that the arrest was made on land which “does not carry any special status under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations”, meaning it was legitimate.
As the US government, its proxies, and its allies continue to misrepresent the situation in Hong Kong, and to aid and abet those promoting social disorder, everyone who cares about Hong Kong must be prepared to step up to the plate, and to call out hypocrisy whenever it rears its ugly head
Although Rogers was, thus, exposed as a purveyor of fake news, he made no apology. Roth, however, is probably too shrewd a cookie to make such basic errors, although he is a master of twisting the facts to suit his stance.
In Roth’s latest report, Human Rights Watch throws distortions about Hong Kong around like confetti. It exaggerates the number of protesters who have participated in demonstrations, claims — despite the hundreds of authorized protest marches and rallies — that the right of freedom of assembly is being curtailed, downplays the sustained violence of the protest movement, disregards the need for Hong Kong to have an extradition mechanism in place with the 177 jurisdictions with which it currently has none, and fails to explain how the rejection by the “pan-dems” of earlier efforts to achieve universal suffrage has stifled democratic progress. It is, on any reading, an ugly exercise in partisanship, but one which will have left the anti-China brigade in the US State Department gleefully rubbing its hands.
Indeed, in May 2014, an open letter was published condemning Human Rights Watch for its close ties with the US government, and everyone can now see why. It was signed by over 100 people of standing, including Nobel Prize laureates Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Corrigan, former UN assistant secretary-general Hans von Sponeck, and former UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard A. Falk. Their view has been endorsed by Robert Naiman, former policy director of Just Foreign Policy, the US organization which campaigns for a foreign policy based on diplomacy, law and cooperation. Naiman has revealed that Human Rights Watch is “often heavily influenced” by US foreign policy.
When Rogers was denied entry into Hong Kong in 2017, he remonstrated loudly. There is, of course, no absolute right of foreigners to enter Hong Kong, as is recognized by both Articles 12 and 154 of the Basic Law. As the foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, explained at the time, China has sovereignty over Hong Kong, and Rogers “must have been very clear as to whether he intended to interfere with the affairs of a special administrative region and the independence of Hong Kong's judiciary”.
In the United Kingdom, moreover, the Home Office has stated that “coming to this country is a privilege”. In 2015, the then-home secretary, Theresa May, explained that people may be denied entry if their presence is not considered “conducive to public good because of their conduct, convictions, character, associations or other reasons”. Those denied entry have included American boxer Mike Tyson, former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, American preacher Louis Farrakhan, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Korean religious leader Moon Sun-myung, and American whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Roth, of course, had hoped to visit Hong Hong to release his report, which describes alleged human rights violations around the world. However, given Beijing’s decision last month, following the enactment by the US of legislation hostile to Hong Kong, to impose sanctions on American NGOs which churn out anti-China propaganda, including Human Rights Watch, his exclusion was clearly on the cards, and his arrival was basically a publicity stunt.
As the foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, explained, entry to China is a “sovereign right”, and there was ample evidence that Human Rights Watch had “through various means supported anti-China radicals, encouraged them to engage in extremist, violent and criminal activity, and incited Hong Kong independence separatist activities”. When, several days later, in New York, Roth issued his report, its misrepresentations concerning Hong Kong amply vindicated Geng's assessment.
The US itself regularly denies entry to foreigners whose presence it deems inimical. Those previously excluded have included South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Argentina’s Diego Maradona, Britain’s Boy George, Ireland’s Gerry Adams, and, most recently, members of the International Criminal Court investigating alleged war crimes involving US military personnel.
As the US government, its proxies, and its allies continue to misrepresent the situation in Hong Kong, and to aid and abet those promoting social disorder, everyone who cares about Hong Kong must be prepared to step up to the plate, and to call out hypocrisy whenever it rears its ugly head.
The author is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously the director of public prosecutions of Hong Kong.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS