China Summons US Envoy in Protest After US Officials Criticized Hong Kong Extradition Bill

June 15, 2019 Updated: June 15, 2019

China urgently summoned a senior U.S. envoy in Beijing in a formal protest after several U.S. lawmakers condemned Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill.

In a statement dated on June 14, vice foreign minister Le Yucheng said that he summoned U.S. diplomat Robert Forden to express China’s strong opposition over the recent “irresponsible remarks and actions” from the United States.

“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, and Hong Kong affairs is strictly Chinese domestic affairs and no external forces should be allowed to interfere,” Le said through the statement, adding that the Chinese government was “extremely dissatisfied.”

These remarks are consistent with the Chinese regime’s past propaganda portraying the United States as a meddling power whenever locals in Hong Kong or Taiwan protest China’s sovereignty claims over those regions.

Le’s remarks came after a bipartisan group of U.S. legislators re-introduced legislation that would require the United States to review whether or not to continue giving special trading privileges to Hong Kong. The lawmakers said that the bill is meant to safeguard the basic human rights of Hong Kong people against Beijing’s growing influence over the city’s affairs.

Under the legislation, the U.S. secretary of state would need to issue an annual certification to assess whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from mainland China.

It also follows remarks made by the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom in a June 12 interview with BBC, saying that the Beijing regime gave no instructions to the Hong Kong government regarding the Hong Kong bill. This has led commentators to suggest that Beijing was forcing the city’s top leader Carrie Lam to take full responsibility for the fallout after Hong Kong police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bags at tens of thousands of unarmed protesters who called for the bill to be scrapped.

A World Watching

Britain handed back control of Hong Kong to China in 1997 on the condition that the region will preserve the autonomy and freedoms that it had enjoyed in the past.

The proposed bill, which would allow the Chinese regime to transfer any wanted person to mainland China for trial, has sparked concerns over the possible erosion of the city’s autonomy, prompting a record number of some 1 million people—nearly one in every seven of the Hong Kong population—to march on the streets. Opponents of the bill say that given China’s disregard for rule of law, the bill could allow critics of the authoritarian regime to be extradited on trumped-up charges.

“America’s strength has been and always will be in our values. We cannot stand idly by as the rights of the people of Hong Kong are trampled on by China,” said Ben Cardin (D-MD), one of the four senators who proposed the bill, in a June 13 statement.

“The United States must use all of our diplomatic tools to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong in the face of this latest effort by Beijing to censor them and infringe upon their basic rights and freedoms,” said Bob Menendez (D-NJ), another co-signer of the bill.

Their support for the Hong Kong protesters have been joined by Chris Patten, the former and final British governor of the territory before the handover. He said that the outpouring of opposition in Hong Kong shows that locals are determined to defend their rights of freedom and the reputation of Hong Kong as an international commercial hub.

“The government in Hong Kong and its masters in Beijing should realize how much damage will be done to Hong Kong if it continues to think it can brazen things out, turning to tear gas and rubber bullets to get its way,” Patten wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian published on June 14.

“ It will be enormously damaging if Hong Kong is viewed commercially as no different from any other city in China,” he further said.

“All of us must stand in support of democratic principles and freedom,” former U.S. vice president Joe Biden wrote on Twitter on June 14.

“The extraordinary bravery shown by hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong, marching for the civil liberties & autonomy promised by China is inspiring. And the world is watching,” Biden said.

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