Hong Kong warns against foreign interference after protesters march to US consulate

Hong Kong warns against foreign interference after protesters march to US consulate

Protestors wave the U.S. flags as they march to the Consulate General of the United States at Hong
Protestors wave the US flags as they march to the Consulate General of the United States at Central, Hong Kong, Sep 8, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/topic/hong-kong-protestsHONG KONG: The Hong Kong government has warned foreign legislatures against interfering in the city after protesters marched on the US consulate on Sunday (Sep 8) to urge Congress to pass a Bill on human rights in the city. 

Protesters set up barricades, smashed windows, started street fires and vandalised an MTR station on Sunday after thousands crowded outside the US Consulate to show their support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The Act supports the “people of Hong Kong in their effort to preserve human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong”, US representative Jim McGovern had said when reintroducing the Bill in June.

READ: Hong Kong protesters call on Trump to 'liberate' the city

In a statement on Monday, the Hong Kong government said: “In response to protesters' march to the United States Consulate General Hong Kong yesterday appealing for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by members of the US Congress, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government expresses regret over the reintroduction of the Act and reiterates that foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR.”

Fire at Central MTR in Hong Kong
A fire set by protesters burns at an entrance to the Central MTR subway station in Hong Kong on Sep 8, 2019.  (Photo: AFP/Vivek Prakash)

The government also condemned the actions of the “radical protesters”, adding that several MTR stations had to be closed on Sunday to protect “the safety of passengers, MTR staff members and the facilities”.

It comes as Chinese state media reported on Monday that Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China and that any form of secessionism “will be crushed”.

READ: China will not tolerate attempts to separate Hong Kong from China: State media

US BILL REINTRODUCED

When the US Bill was reintroduced in June, the controversial extradition Bill in Hong Kong - which would have allowed criminals to be sent to mainland China to stand trial - was still on the cards. 

Mr McGovern said the legislation would place the US “firmly on the side of human rights and democracy”.

“If the extradition Bill moves forward and Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions continue to erode due to interference from the Chinese government, the Congress has no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong can receive preferential economic and trade benefits under US law,” he had said in June.

On Thursday, US Senate Democrats leader Chuck Schumer said legislation addressing China's actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by the Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess.

Riot police fire tear gas near Causeway Bay station in Hong Kong
Riot police fire tear gas near Causeway Bay station in Hong Kong, China Sep 8, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Last week, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said the extradition Bill would be formally withdrawn.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said: “The Chief Executive announced on Sep 4 that the government would formally withdraw the Bill. 

“Before that, the government had also clearly indicated on many occasions that all work in relation to the legislative amendment had completely stopped.”

READ: Hong Kong school students form human chain after weekend of protests

He added that law enforcement agencies outside of Hong Kong, including those from the mainland and overseas, “do not have the authority” to enforce laws within the jurisdiction of Hong Kong.

While some American politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the democratic goals of the protesters, the Trump administration has maintained a more hands-off approach while it fights a trade war with China.

Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis and urged China against escalating with a violent crackdown.

A protester films a fire at the entrance of MTR Central Station in Hong Kong
A protester films a fire at the entrance of MTR Central Station in Hong Kong, China Sep 8, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)

But he has also said it is up to Beijing to handle the protests. Washington has rejected China's allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and Beijing has shown little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some politicians.

ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula, with protesters calling for greater democracy in the city.

“The HKSAR government has all along been dealing with matters relating to the HKSAR in strict accordance with the principle of 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law, and will not allow 'law enforcement across the boundary',” the Hong Kong spokesman said. 

He added that Hong Kong’s separate customs territory status and trade autonomy were conferred upon Hong Kong by the Basic Law, instead of an offering by other jurisdictions.

“It is very much in Hong Kong's own interest to maintain our autonomy to safeguard our interests and advantages under the 'one country, two systems' principle."

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

Protestors leave after lighting fire on a road during a rally in Hong Kong
Protestors leave after lighting fire on a road during a rally in Hong Kong on Sep 8, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

He said the “one country, two systems” principle has been “fully and successfully implemented” and that human rights and freedoms were “fully protected by the Basic Law” in Hong Kong and other legislation.

“The HKSAR government attaches great importance to them and is determined to safeguard them,” he said.

Source: CNA/Agencies/mi

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