In the latest development of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, ministers from China have said G20 nations are not allowed to discuss the country’s internal issues.
While I can’t speak for the world leaders who will be attending the upcoming G20 meeting this week, telling someone not to do something often only makes them want to do it more.
Though China has tried to keep a lid on it, news of the protests has been detailed and widespread. They are, after all, the most violent protests Hong Kong has seen in decades, and those caught up in them have been desperately trying to make their voices heard.
The protests have arisen because of a bill the Hong Kong government proposed. It aimed to allow the extradition of people awaiting trial to mainland China for the first time, therefore making them face trial in courts which are controlled by the country’s Communist party.
Currently, Hong Kong does not have extradition laws with countries such as China, Taiwan, and Macau, among others. Authorities say the proposed bill will make sure Hong Kong does not become a ‘paradise for criminals’ who cannot be extradited.
However, critics of the bill fear it will subject Hong Kong to China’s ‘highly flawed’ judicial system, and risks undoing its autonomy and independence.
Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 to 1997, when it returned to sovereignty and gained the full title: ‘Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’.
Since then, it has been part of China but in a ‘one country, two systems’ partnership. China describes it as a ‘special administrative region’ as Hong Kong is technically part of the country but exercises its own judicial independence, legislature, and economic systems.
Independence and autonomy has allowed Hong Kong to thrive as a global financial centre, becoming one of the world’s largest trading areas, separate from China’s rule.
Many people believe a large part of Hong Kong’s success is because of its judiciary independence – controlling its own courts. Currently, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, is the head of government, which exercises its own executive, legislative and judicial power in the region.
The proposed extradition bill, however, would effectively hand over some of Hong Kong’s autonomy to mainland China.
The government’s suggestion to introduce the bill comes after the killing of a woman from Hong Kong while she was on holiday in Taiwan with her boyfriend. The boyfriend, who is suspected of murder, can only be tried in Taiwan, but because Hong Kong has no extradition agreement with Taiwan, he has stayed in Hong Kong, according to The Guardian.
Those in favour of the bill say it will close such legal loopholes. However, those opposed fear it is the first step in eroding Hong Kong’s independence, as it could invite lawmakers in China to get involved in more legal matters.
As Eric Cheung, a legal expert from the University of Hong Kong, said: ‘How can you expect our chief executive to say no when faced by the central government?’
Hong Kong does not currently extradite criminals or suspects to China because of the lack of legal protection in their courts.
This is partly because, as Cheung says:
There is no way the Hong Kong government or Hong Kong courts can ensure that the person extradited back to China can have a fair trial. How can we guarantee that the person will have access to lawyers? How can we ensure that this person will not be subject to violence or threats to coerce him to plead guilty?
What could be possible is that the Chinese government will weaponise and use this system against foreign nationals doing business or passing through Hong Kong.
At the moment, the bill proposes to only extradite people facing at least a seven-year sentence, with chief executive Lam promising extradition requests will be reviewed before a final decision is made.
However, if the bill is passed, many people fear China will end up pressuring Hong Kong’s government into deporting people who they deem to be political activists and outspoken critics of Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump are set to meet at this week’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, as trade tensions between the two countries heighten.
However, China’s assistant foreign minister Zhang Jun said they will not allow any of the G20 nations to discuss its ongoing issues with the protests in Hong Kong.
Zhang said, via The Guardian:
What I can tell you for sure is that G20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue. We will not allow G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue.
Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region. Hong Kong matters are purely an internal affair to China. No foreign country has a right to interfere. No matter at what venue, using any method, we will not permit any country or person to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
However, as the largest protests in Hong Kong’s history continue, it’s becoming increasingly clear people outside China are talking about it, despite the Chinese media’s best efforts to contain the unrest, with many mainland Chinese people hearing about the protests through word of mouth, as the Financial Times reports.
As the China Daily newspaper insists the protests were the result of the US ‘meddling’ and ‘interfering in Hong Kong affairs’, it seems the protests have had an effect on chief executive Lam, who offered a ‘sincere and solemn’ apology to the people of Hong Kong over the controversial extradition bill.
Though Lam did not withdraw the bill, or meet demands for her resignation, she acknowledged the bill is now ‘unlikely’ to pass, and will not be revived until people’s fears were addressed, as BBC News reports.
Despite Lam’s concessions, protests in Hong Kong have continued, with demonstrators this week occupying government buildings in the region and forcing them to close. The disruption of the government’s day-to-day work is an effort to force them to address the protesters demands with immediate effect.
Though they may refuse to talk about it, it is clear the Hong Kong protests will be the elephant in the room at this week’s G20 summit.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.