Chinese ambassador to Britain rejects claims of central government hand in HK extradition bill

14-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

China’s ambassador to Britain has become the first Chinese official to publicly dismiss suggestions that Beijing was behind controversial changes to Hong Kong’s extradition bill.

In an interview with British broadcaster the BBC, Liu Xiaoming, China’s top envoy in London since 2009, said Beijing never instructed Hong Kong to amend the legislation.

“[The media] portrayed the story as the Hong Kong government made this amendment [as a result of the] instruction of the Beijing government,” Liu said.

“As a matter of fact, [the] Beijing central government gave no instruction, no order about making [the] amendment. This amendment was initiated by the Hong Kong government, it was prompted by a murder case in Taiwan.”

The proposed changes ignited chaotic protests on the city’s streets on Wednesday when the bill was to be debated for a second time by the Legislative Council.

The day-long confrontations largely died down after police used rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters, who hurled various objects at the officers and repeatedly tried to push through their defensive lines.

Asked if Beijing would request the Hong Kong government to drop the changes, Liu said: “No. Why should we ask them to drop [it]?”

He said the police use of force was defensive to put “order in place”, adding that “forces inside and outside of Hong Kong” were trying to take advantage of conditions to “stir up trouble”.

The bill was first proposed in February was due for a second reading on Wednesday before the session was called off. It was called off again on Thursday and no date has been set yet for it to be debated in Legco again.

The proposed amendments would simplify case-by-case extraditions of criminal suspects to countries beyond the 20 with which Hong Kong already has extradition treaties.

It prompted concern in Hong Kong and elsewhere that anyone ranging from the city’s residents, to foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling through the international financial hub would be at risk if they are wanted by Beijing.

On Monday, a day after hundreds of thousands of people marched through the city in opposition to the bill, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also dismissed claims that Beijing ordered the amendments.

The Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly voiced support for Lam’s government over the bill and accused “foreign forces” such as the United States of interfering in the city’s affairs.

In the BBC interview, Liu also warned the British government against intervention in Hong Kong, a British colony before its 1997 handover to China.

“The British government has the duty to protect your own citizens, but not the people of Hong Kong. Citizens of Hong Kong, they are part of China now. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong people will run their own affairs. They are entitled to carry out their social system different from the mainland, but it has nothing to do with the British government,” Liu said, referring to the city’s mini-constitution.

The Basic Law enshrines the “one country, two systems” principle that is meant to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life until 2047.

It was based on the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, a document that Liu said had fulfilled its missions of ensuring a smooth handover and setting an example for the international community for dispute settlement.


Category: Hong Kong

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