BEIJING (Reuters) - Hong Kong does not need meddling by “black hand” Western forces who are trying to destroy its stability, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Wednesday, after mass protests there against a controversial extradition bill.
The protests against the bill, that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial, saw some of the worst violence since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The Hong Kong government has since postponed the legislation, though the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, on Tuesday refused to say the bill would be withdrawn, only that it would not be re-introduced during her time in office if public fears persist.
Beijing has said it respects and supports Lam’s decision, but has been angered by criticism from Western capitals, including Washington and London, about the legislation.
State Councillor Wang Yi, in the first public comments by a senior Chinese leader since the protests took place, said the proposed Hong Kong government’s legislation “completely suited the interests of the Hong Kong people”.
“But due to the fact that all sides need to further understand and discuss this, the Hong Kong government decided to postpone this process. The central government has already formally expressed our support, understanding, and respect for this,” Wang said at a joint news conference with Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok.
“What we must be on guard against is that some Western forces are taking advantage of this issue to stir up trouble and incite opposition in an attempt to destroy Hong Kong’s social stability and the implementation of one country, two systems,” Wang added.
“We must say it here loudly: you must withdraw your black hand. Hong Kong is China’s domestic affair. We don’t need your meddling here. Hong Kong is not a place for you to run amuck.”
Since the proposed amendments to the Fugitives Offenders’ Ordinance were first put to the city’s legislature in February, Lam has repeatedly rebuffed concerns voiced about it from many quarters, including business groups, lawyers, judges, and foreign governments.
Critics say the bill would undermine Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and rule of law, guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” formula under which it returned to China in 1997, by extending China’s reach into the city and allowing individuals to be arbitrarily sent back to China where they couldn’t be guaranteed a fair trial.
Chinese courts are controlled by and loyal to the Communist Party.
Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel
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