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How to weaponise human rights against Hong Kong

SCMP Columnist My Take by Alex Lo

Translated Saturday 18 January 2020

Alex Lo has been a Post columnist since 2012, covering major issues affecting Hong Kong and the rest of China. A journalist for 25 years, he has worked for various publications in Hong Kong and Toronto as a news reporter and editor. He has also lectured in journalism at the University of Hong Kong.

It has made international news that Kenneth Roth, head of New York-based Human Rights Watch, was barred from entering Hong Kong. He was to release a 652-page report detailing human rights situations in about 100 countries. Of all those places, he had to pick Hong Kong. Roth had a report to sell, though, claiming the Chinese government is undermining human rights everywhere, not just within China.
Roth got what he wanted: the sensationalised publicity, leaving Hong Kong in a no-win situation. Contrary to claims by his group, we don’t have a human rights crisis, only a domestic one. But in a completely open media environment like Hong Kong, if you focus 24/7 on police actions over seven months of violent protests, you are bound to find excesses, which can then be “documented” as human rights violations. No police force in the world could pass muster under such intense and biased scrutiny.
In March last year, the United States revoked or denied visas to members of the International Criminal Court investigating US troops in Afghanistan or other countries for possible war crimes. Did Human Rights Watch jump up and down about that? Not exactly. It did observe the policy of non-cooperation of the US government with the ICC.
Human Rights Watch chief calls Hong Kong entry refusal ‘sad and troubling’
14 Jan 2020

Roth and his group are at the heart of what has been called “the human rights industrial complex”. As the US carries out interventions around the world, self-appointed American liberal warriors like Roth are at the vanguard. There is no better way to disguise interventionist US foreign policy by giving it a human rights cover.
These are often the same people. Past and current Human Rights Watch people include congressman Tom Malinowski and Michael E. Shifter, a former official with the National Endowment for Democracy, and Suzanne Nossel, former deputy assistant secretary at the US State Department, and Miguel Diaz, an ex-CIA analyst.

In 2014, an open letter to Roth was published criticising Human Rights Watch for its merry-go-round personnel with the US government. It was signed by two Nobel Peace laureates, former UN officials, and more than 100 academics and activists.

Hong Kong has become the latest victim in this tried and tested strategy of Washington. No Tiananmen 2.0, no problem. Americans will just manufacture a humanitarian crisis here. Roth makes no bones about promoting democracy everywhere and Washington must play its part. The city is too irresistible not to exploit.
Alex Lo


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