Human rights organisation Amnesty International will close its offices in Hong Kong by the end of the year because of the national security law imposed there by China.

“The local ‘section’ office will cease operations on 31 October while the regional office – which is part of Amnesty’s global International Secretariat – is due to close by the end of 2021,” the organisation said. “Regional operations will be moved to the organisation’s other offices in the Asia-Pacific.”

The national security law is aimed at curbing protests – which rocked Hong Kong in 2019 – prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference”, and terrorism. These charges are often used in the Chinese mainland to stifle dissidents and political opponents.

Amnesty International said on Monday that the law, introduced in Hong Kong in June 2020, had made it impossible for rights organisations to work without the fear of reprisals from the government.

More than 150 people have been arrested under the law, according to The Guardian.

Amnesty International said that it was becoming increasingly difficult for it keep operating in an unstable environment.

“Hong Kong has long been an ideal regional base for international civil society organisations, but the recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signals an intensification of the authorities’ campaign to rid the city of all dissenting voices,” it said.

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard thanked members of the organisation who worked for the protection of human rights in Hong Kong for 40 years.

“From successfully pushing for the full abolition of the death penalty in Hong Kong in 1993, to exposing evidence of excessive use of force by police during the 2019 mass protests, Amnesty in Hong Kong has shone a light on human rights violations in the darkest of days,” Callamard said.

Second person convicted under law

Hong Kong on Tuesday convicted a second person under the national security law, AP reported.

Ma Chun-man, who shouted pro-independence slogans multiple times, was accused of “inciting secession”, according to the news agency.

The first person to be convicted under the law, Tong Ying-kit, had been sentenced to nine years in jail after he rode a bike into police officers while carrying a protest flag in July last year.

The Hong Kong protests

The demonstrations in Hong Kong protests had initially been organised to oppose an extradition bill that proposed to allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. However, they soon evolved into a pro-democracy backlash against the city’s government and Beijing.

On October 23, 2019 the Hong Kong administration, led by Carrie Lam, formally withdrew the extradition bill. However, the administration accepted just one of the pro-democracy protestors’ demands.

The protestors demanded that Lam step down from her post, an inquiry into the alleged police brutality during the protests, retraction of the word “riots” to describe the demonstrations, amnesty for all those arrested for protesting, and universal suffrage.

The demonstrations paralysed the city and affected the retail and tourism sectors, along with widespread disruptions across the financial centre and no end in sight to the violence and vandalism.