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Amnesty: Hong Kong on course to becoming 'police state'

The national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year has created a "human rights emergency" in the special administrative region, the rights group says.

A woman reacts after riot police fired tear gas to disperse protesters taking part in a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities have been using the national security law to target dissent, said Amnesty

Global rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday sharply criticized the national security law the Chinese government imposed on Hong Kong one year ago.   

It has created a "human rights emergency" in the city, it said.

Hong Kong authorities have been using the law to target dissent and justify "censorship, harassment, arrests and prosecutions that violate human rights," Amnesty added.

"In one year, the National Security Law has put Hong Kong on a rapid path to becoming a police state and created a human rights emergency for the people living there," Amnesty's Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said.

What is the national security law?

China introduced the controversial national security law a year ago to crack down on what it deems subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Beijing insisted the measure was needed to restore stability in Hong Kong, which witnessed huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in 2019.

But rights activists and critics of the Chinese government view it as a means for Beijing to impose its will on Hong Kong and crush dissent. 

What has its impact been so far?

The law has had a sharp effect on civil liberties in Hong Kong, compromising free speech, the rule of law and the right to protest, among other things.

Since it came into force, authorities have arrested many high-profile democratic politicians and activists and charged them under the law. They include prominent media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Most of those charged under the law have been denied bail.

The government has said all arrests have been lawful and no one was above the law.

Fearing arrests, many activists have fled the territory.

Hong Kong turning into 'a human rights wasteland'

Authorities have also declared certain slogans and songs illegal, removed or reframed sensitive topics in school curricula and pulled democracy books off the shelves of public libraries.

"From politics to culture, education to media, the law has infected every part of Hong Kong society and fomented a climate of fear that forces residents to think twice about what they say, what they tweet and how they live their lives," Amnesty said in the report.

"Ultimately, this sweeping and repressive legislation threatens to make the city a human rights wasteland increasingly resembling mainland China," Amnesty said.

sri/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)