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China defends barring Human Rights Watch head from Hong Kong

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China on Monday defended barring the head of Human Rights Watch from entering Hong Kong, saying non-governmental organizations were responsible for political unrest in the city and should “pay the proper price”.

Kenneth Roth was supposed to give a press conference in Hong Kong this week to unveil the New York-based rights group’s latest global survey, which accuses China of prosecuting “an intensive attack” on international human rights agencies.

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The long-time executive director said Sunday that he was turned back by authorities at the city’s airport.

China last month announced sanctions on American NGOs, including HRW, in retaliation for the passage of a US bill backing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

“Allowing or not allowing someone’s entry is China’s sovereign right,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

“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,” Geng said.

“They bear major responsibility for the current chaos in Hong Kong. These organisations should be punished, and should pay the proper price.”

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Hong Kong has been battered by nearly 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.

– Not the first –

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Roth joins a growing list of openly critical academics, researchers, politicians and activists who have been refused entry in recent years.

Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was denied a visa renewal without reason in 2018 after he hosted a talk with the leader of a small and now banned independence party at the city’s press club.

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Last September, an American academic was barred from entering after he testified in a Congressional hearing alongside prominent Hong Kong democracy activists.

“I had hoped to spotlight Beijing’s deepening assault on international efforts to uphold human rights,” Roth said. “The refusal to let me enter Hong Kong vividly illustrates the problem.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said that when Roth asked why he was prevented from entering Hong Kong, he was only told that it was “immigration reasons”.

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“What we believe is that he was stopped because the Chinese government is afraid to have the world know what they are doing to the people of Hong Kong and the people of China,” Robertson told AFP in Bangkok.

The unrest that began last June is the biggest crisis the former British colony has faced since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Under the terms of the handover, Hong Kong enjoys unique freedoms unseen on the mainland, but in recent years fears have increased that these liberties are being chipped away as Beijing exerts more control over the territory.

China and the Hong Kong administration have refused to cede to the protesters’ demands, which include fully free elections in the city, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct, and amnesty for the nearly 6,500 people arrested during the movement — nearly a third of them under the age of 20.

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Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which was to host Roths’ press conference on Wednesday, said in a statement it was concerned that the city’s government was using the immigration department to “act punitively against organisations and media representatives it does not agree with, which is a violation of the commitment to free expression and free speech in Hong Kong law.”


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Rick Santorum flattened by CNN’s Berman after calling Parnas bombshell revelations ‘extraneous’ to impeachment

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Rick Santorum and CNN's John Berman got into a frantic back-and-forth on Friday morning after the former Republican senator attempted to dismiss the revelations by former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas as something that should not be submitted as evidence in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Discussing the Senate trial expected to start next week, Santorum said the only testimony and witnesses that should be allowed are ones that came up in the earlier House hearings.

"The House's responsibility to bring to us a case," Santorum stated. "They're the one who is said these are offenses that are worthy of the president being removed from office; here is the record, here are the charges. The Senate didn't impeach, the House did, so we are going to look at the record the House presented us. We're going to look at the witnesses and say are there are questions that we have for the people that brought this case forward and relied on these witnesses and look at their testimony."

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Fox & Friends floats impeachment conspiracy theory about GAO findings of Trump crimes against Ukraine

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"Fox & Friends" assured viewers they could ignore a federal watchdog agency's findings that President Donald Trump broke the law by withholding Ukraine aid.

The nonpartisan the Government Accountability Office found the White House Office of Management and Budget violated the law by freezing $400 million in congressionally approved military aid, but the Fox News hosts suggested the agency was only trying to hurt the president.

"Do you think it's just a coincidence that that news would drop exactly the same day the (impeachment) trial started?" said co-host Steve Doocy.

Co-hosts Pete Hegseth and Ainsley Earhardt agreed, and accepted administration denials at face value.

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GOP senators are questioning allegiance to Trump as impeachment becomes a reality: Morning Joe panel

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According to members of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" panel, Donald Trump may see more defections by previously supportive Republican senators now that the impeachment of the president has become a reality and their conduct will be scrutinized by voters back home.

Speaking with columnist David Ignatius, host Joe Scarborough noted that multiple Republican senators -- including several who are retiring -- are going soft on defending the president and may be inclined to allowing multiple witnesses who could damage the president.

"David Ignatius, you know, we've known Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) both of us, for a long time. and as they coming to the end of their careers," Scarborough began. "I would think [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell would be concerned that these gentlemen would vote their conscience and not just blindly follow Donald Trump and would vote to have a fair, open hearing and trial and get this new evidence that's coming in, that's come in since the House impeached."

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