NEW YORK — China poses an increasingly dire threat to the international human rights system, Human Rights Watch said in its annual report released on Tuesday.
The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping “has constructed an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state and a sophisticated internet censorship system to monitor and suppress public criticism,” HRW director Kenneth Roth said in the report.
“Abroad, it uses its growing economic clout to silence critics and to carry out the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since that system began to emerge in the mid-20th century,” he added.
Roth described how China uses its influence at the United Nations to block measures to protect persecuted people and avoid discussions of its mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang province.
“If not challenged, Beijing’s actions portend a dystopian future in which no one is beyond the reach of Chinese censors, and an international human rights system so weakened that it no longer serves as a check on government repression,” Roth wrote.
The HRW chief was at the U.N. headquarters in New York to release the report after being denied entry to Hong Kong, where he was initially planning to launch it.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Roth, a U.S. citizen, was barred over his organization’s support of protesters in Hong Kong.
“I had hoped to spotlight Beijing’s deepening assault on international efforts to uphold human rights,” Roth said in a statement. “The refusal to let me enter Hong Kong vividly illustrates the problem.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declined to comment on Roth’s denied entry, saying in a Tuesday news conference that her administration does “not comment on individual cases.”
Lam added that the “immigration authorities will deal with each case based on the existing legislation and the existing immigration policy, taking into account the actual circumstances of the case.”
Hong Kong political expert Phillip Bowring said that though he was not aware of any relevant change in the legislation, “the authorities have long had powers to deny entry to nonresidents without giving reasons.”
At the launch event for HRW’s report in New York, a diplomat from China’s mission to the U.N. lashed out at Roth.
“Given what you said, I think it’s clear to all why you have been barred such entry,” Xing Jisheng told Roth.
The Chinese diplomat said his country rejected the report’s contents, which contained “prejudices and fabrications” about Beijing.
The report also failed to mention that China had lifted 700 million people out of poverty, the diplomat said.
Roth replied that it was easy to make claims of falsehoods, but that HRW worked carefully to report the facts.
HRW’s annual report reviews human rights practices around the world. While this year’s report spotlights China, it also points out rights abuses in countries including Syria and Yemen, where warring parties disregard rules designed to protect civilians.
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