A security crackdown has tested perceptions of Hong Kong’s values. The world has watched from afar, largely detached from arrests of activists and opposition lawmakers and the disbandment of civil society groups. Now, rightly or wrongly, the perception abroad that times have changed has been sharpened by Amnesty International’s announcement that it is closing its Hong Kong operations. The rights agency says the implementation of the national security law has made human-rights work “effectively impossible” without fear of government reprisals. What sets Amnesty apart is that it is the first overseas group of its kind to pull out of Hong Kong and will make a bigger impact abroad. It must be said that from the point of view of upholding and advancing human rights the decision is a pity and regrettable. The government has pointed out, rightly, that the security law upholds human rights and stipulates that freedoms enjoyed by residents under the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are protected in the law. That said, it is Amnesty’s prerogative to assess the risk to its personnel and act in what it sees as their best interests. But, given the London-based agency’s global mission, and Hong Kong’s location as a regional hub, it is a decision that is to be lamented. Before the civil unrest in 2019 that prompted Beijing to impose the security law, human rights were not a serious issue in Hong Kong. Whether that remains so is debatable. The issue has become very political. In that respect, Amnesty may have legitimate concerns. But given that human rights remain protected under the Basic Law and the national security law, there is a question whether this is the time to cut and run rather than deal as best it could with a difficult situation. Its decision reflects a perception nurtured by critics that despite guarantees under the Basic Law and the national security law, and Hong Kong’s international commitments, rights and freedoms have been eroded. Organisations like Amnesty are needed if government is to be held to account for upholding such guarantees. For that to happen, however, it is not just a matter of what these laws say. The community and rights advocates need a clear understanding of the boundaries of the security law and of the way it is implemented.