13 November 2019

Hong Kong activists urge G20 leaders to help 'liberate' city

KONFRONTASI-Thousands of people in Hong Kong joined an evening protest and marched to major foreign consulates on Wednesday, urging leaders gathering for this week’s summit of G20 nations to back their demand to scrap a controversial extradition bill.

Holding placards with messages such as “Please liberate Hong Kong”, the demonstrators, some wearing masks, marched to consulates of nations represented at the Japan summit of the Group of 20 major economies.

These included Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“This is the first time so many march to so many consulates to express a single view,” said one of the organizers of the march, who gave only his surname, Lau.

Millions have protested in recent weeks against an extradition bill that would have allowed individuals, including foreigners, to be extradited to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by its ruling Communist Party.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader Carrie Lam eventually caved in after some of the worst violence seen in decades on the city’s streets, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

But Lam stopped short of protesters’ demands to scrap the bill altogether, saying it would be suspended indefinitely.

“As long as the government doesn’t withdraw the bill, and they refuse to respond, then we will keep on fighting,” said Aslee Tam, 19, a university student among the marchers.

“We want to make some noise during the G20 meeting, to let other countries discuss the issues in Hong Kong.”

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, it has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including the liberty to protest and an independent judiciary.

But many accuse China of increased meddling over the years, by obstructing democratic reform, interfering with elections, suppressing young activists, as well as being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who specialized in works critical of Chinese leaders.

“BACK HONG KONG”

At the U.S. consulate, protesters handed over a petition asking President Donald Trump to “Back Hong Kong at the G20 Summit,” where he is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to try to defuse trade tension.

They urged Trump to back a full withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry into the actions of Hong Kong police against protesters.

They also marched to the British consulate, where a man held up a sign reading, “Free HK from China colonization.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament on Tuesday that London would ban sales of tear gas to Hong Kong and called for an independent inquiry into the recent violence, a gesture welcomed by some in the crowd.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged Britain not to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

“Britain has repeatedly made irresponsible remarks and flagrantly interfered with regards to Hong Kong,” he told a daily briefing. “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this.”

Thousands of activists, many wearing black, spoke, sang and urged G20 leaders to defend the rights of the people of Hong Kong at the evening gathering on the edge of the financial district.

They also condemned the “excessive, disproportionate force” used by police during some protests.

Raising Hong Kong’s extradition saga at the summit could embarrass Xi at a delicate time of rising trade tension with the United States, and further pressure Hong Kong’s leader, amid reports that Beijing has doubts about Lam’s capabilities.

China will not allow discussion of Hong Kong at this week’s summit of G20 leaders in Japan’s western city of Osaka, assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun has said.

In a crowdfunding campaign, Hong Kong activists have raised more than HK$5 million ($640,606) to take out newspaper ads in major foreign media during the summit..

Some Hong Kong activists have also journeyed to Osaka.[mr/reuters]

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