The Human Rights Watch on Tuesday demanded Hong Kong authorities revoke a ban on the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, a decision that it described as a major setback for freedom of expression.
Authorities on Monday justified the ban on the party founded in 2016 by activist Andy Chan on the grounds that it had publicly called for armed revolution and rejected the arrival of Chinese settlers, reports Efe news.
They added that the attitudes of Chan and his supporters could not be taken simply as political slogans as they jeopardized the security of the territory that was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and in which discontent with the Communist regime has risen since 2014 iconic 'Umbrella Revolution'.
"Human rights in Hong Kong have been on the ropes in recent years, but this ban is a body blow to Hong Kong people's ability to express their views, join with like-minded people, and run for office," said HRW China Director Sophie Richardson.
This is the first time since the return of Hong Kong to Chinese hands in July 1997, that the regional government has banned a political organization, a decision discouraging for human rights in the region, according to HRW.
"Authorities in Hong Kong should immediately reverse this small-minded decision that has far-reaching implications," said Richardson, adding that "authorities have no business banning political parties simply because they disagree with their peaceful views".
Hong Kong enjoys wide autonomy from the Chinese Communist regime due to the 'one country, two systems' principle, but according to broad sectors in local politics Beijing has been increasingly exerting influence on the former colony and repressing its freedoms.
"To ban a group of people exercising their basic rights sadly parallels what has long happened in the mainland," Richardson added.