China criticises foreign interference as Hong Kong braces for further protests over extradition law

Sophia Yan

Beijing has denounced foreign interference after the US criticised a proposed Hong Kong extradition law that is expected to see thousands of protesters return to the streets tomorrow.

On Monday the US State Departrment expressed “grave concern” over the extradition bill, saying it could “undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy” and harm “the territory’s longstanding protections of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values.”

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday called Washington's remarks “irresponsible and erroneous”.

The extradition bill, would allow a person arrested in Hong Kong to face trial in mainland China, has generated an unprecedented wave of discontent at home and abroad.

China's Communist Party exerts control of the courts and defendants there often face trumped-up charges, forced confessions and torture.

A petition has called on tens of thousands of people to swarm the legislature on Wednesday, where the bill will have its second and third readings.

Nearly 2,000 businesses – mostly small retail shops including restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores – have announced plans to close for the day so employees can participate in the demonstrations.

Thousands of teachers have also pledged to rally, after the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union urged people to strike.

On Tuesday evening police set up metal barriers around the parliament building and conducted bag searches as they prepared for today’s rally.

The authorities' anxiety follows a massive demonstration on Sunday when a sea of people flooded main thoroughfares in Hong Kong, calling on the city’s leaders to scrap the bill and waving bright red posters that read “No Extradition” in white letters.

Protest organisers estimated more than one million people took to the streets – nearly 15 percent of the city’s population.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has nevertheless said the Chinese territory will press ahead with the bill, which is expected to pass within weeks as the city’s 70-seat parliament is dominated by a pro-Beijing alliance.  

“In this case, where there is such a strong voice of disagreement – in my experience, this has never happened,” said Margaret Ng, a Hong Kong barrister and former lawmaker.

“I think we are really in a crisis now,” she told the Telegraph.

Meanwhile on Tuesday New Zealand stopped a murder suspect from being extradited to China, saying it could not send him to a country where torture was "widespread" and "systemic.”