German think tank closes Hong Kong office over new law

BERLIN (AP) — A German think tank said Wednesday it is closing its Hong Kong office following China’s imposition of a sweeping new national security law on the territory.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, which is linked to Germany’s opposition Free Democratic Party, said it could no longer ensure the safety of its employees as a result of the new law.

It said it is freezing its activities in the former British colony, giving up its office and parting company with its four remaining staff members there. One employee already had left because of concerns over his personal safety, it added.

“A climate of fear and permanent danger prevails in Hong Kong today,” foundation chief Karl-Heinz Paque said in a statement. “Those who stand up for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong today put themselves in danger. We cannot expose our employees and partners to this risk.”

The new security law bans secessionist, subversive and terrorist activities, as well as collusion with foreign forces, with penalties of up to life imprisonment.

Critics say the law amounts to a major crackdown on free speech and political activity by the opposition and further erodes the civil liberties promised to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” principle in place since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

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