Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, January 16, 2019…
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 16, 2019.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, says China’s decision to deny him entry into Hong Kong shows "the downward trajectory of Beijing’s respect for human rights."

In an interview with VOA's Mandarin Service Monday, Roth said that his case illustrates the problem in Hong Kong which he said is Beijing’s undermining of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that China agreed to when Hong Kong was returned from Britain.

Roth had traveled to Hong Kong on Sunday with plans to launch the organization's “World Report 2020”.

Human Rights Watch was scheduled to release the report Wednesday at a news conference in Hong Kong. Roth said his introductory essay to the 652-page report "focuses on the way in which the Chinese government has not simply violated the rights of its citizens but is also making increasing efforts to undermine the enforcement of human rights around the world."

Roth said he was told by immigration officials that the reason he was being denied entry into Hong Kong was for “immigration reasons” but was given no further explanation.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Monday that Roth was denied entry into China as a matter of "Chinese sovereignty" and blamed Human Rights Watch for the turmoil in Hong Kong.

"Such organizations deserve sanctions and must pay a price," Geng said.

Protesters wave flags that read "Hong Kong Independence" during a rally in Hong Kong, Jan. 12, 2020.

Roth told VOA that China’s line of reasoning is “just silly” and said it is also insulting to the people of Hong Kong.“

If you look behind this excuse, what’s really going on is that the authorities in Beijing are terrified by what the Hong Kong protests represent, because they represent widespread discontent with the authoritarian drift of the Chinese government,” he said.  

He said because China is unable to admit this “they have to concoct these ridiculous stories that the Hong Kong people are just pawns of various international groups” which he called “absurd.”

Roth said the answer for China would be to “start listening to the complaints of the protesters, to start respecting the rule of law and political freedom.”

Human Rights Watch said Roth will now present the report Tuesday from New York City.

Protesters in Hong Kong first rallied around a now defunct extradition law proposal that would let Hong Kong criminal suspects be deported to mainland China, where punishments are harsher. Protester demands now include universal suffrage and an independent probe into police brutality.

Mandarin Service reporter Rong Shi contributed to this report.