China has blamed Hong Kong's months-long anti-government protests on a U.S.-based charity, Human Rights Watch, after banning the head of the group from entering the semi-autonomous city.
Beijing's Ministry of Foreign Affairs today defended barring the charity's Executive Director Kenneth Roth, claiming the non-governmental organisation bears 'significant responsibility for the current chaos in Hong Kong' and should 'pay the proper price'.
The Ministry said there was 'plenty of' evidence to suggest that the group incited anti-China individuals to carry out extremist, violent and criminal actions and fanned the flames of separatist activities.
Mr Roth, a U.S. citizen, was supposed to give a press conference in Hong Kong this week to unveil the New York-based group's latest global survey, but he said on Sunday he was turned back by authorities at the city's airport.
The 64-year-old said he was blocked at Hong Kong airport from entering for the first time, having entered freely in the past.
'This year (the new world report) describes how the Chinese government is undermining the international human rights system. But the authorities just blocked my entrance to Hong Kong, illustrating the worsening problem,' Mr Roth said in a post on his Twitter account.
He added that Hong Kong immigration officials had cited only 'immigration reasons'.
During seven months of sometimes violent anti-government protests, the Chinese-ruled city has barred several activists, foreign journalists and an academic.
Mr Roth told The Associated Press by email that he was held up at immigration for around four hours and subjected to 'an extremely thorough security check'.
When he asked the immigration officer whether the decision was being made in Beijing or Hong Kong, she insisted it was being made in Hong Kong, Mr Roth said.
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a regular press briefing today: 'Allowing or not allowing someone's entry is China's sovereign right.'
He added: 'Plenty of facts and evidence show that the relevant NGO has through various means supported anti-China radicals, encouraged them to engage in extremist, violent and criminal activity, and incited Hong Kong independence separatist activities.
'They bear significant responsibility for the current chaos in Hong Kong. These organisations should be punished, and should pay the proper price.'
China last month announced sanctions on American NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), in retaliation for the passage of a U.S. bill backing Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong has been battered by seven months of occasionally violent protests, its biggest political crisis in decades.
Millions have turned out on the streets of the semi-autonomous financial hub to demand greater democratic freedoms.
Mr Roth said he had hoped to 'spotlight Beijing's deepening assault on international efforts to uphold human rights' during his visit to Hong Kong.
'The refusal to let me enter Hong Kong vividly illustrates the problem,' he said.
Following Mr Roth's denied entry to Hong Kong, HRW is due to hold a news conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the launch of its World Report 2020 at 3p.m. EST on January 14.
Mr Roth will discuss the increasingly dire threat to the global system for protecting human rights posed by the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping, as well as other grave threats to rights around the world, according to the group.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.