World

Hong Kong activists call on G20 nations including Canada to help 'liberate' city

More than a thousand protesters in Hong Kong have marched to major foreign consulates including Canada's, urging leaders at the upcoming G20 summit to support the full scrapping of a controversial extradition bill.

Protesters marched to consulates of nations represented at Group of 20 meeting in Japan

Demonstrators in Hong Kong attend a rally before the G20 summit, urging the international community to back their demands for the city's government to withdraw a controversial extradition bill. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

More than a thousand protesters marched to major foreign consulates in Hong Kong on Wednesday, urging leaders at the upcoming G20 summit to support the full scrapping of a controversial extradition bill.

Holding placards that read "Please Liberate Hong Kong" in multiple languages including Russian and German, the demonstrators, some wearing masks, marched to consulates of nations represented at the Group of 20 major economies summit in Japan this weekend, including Canada.

Millions of people in Hong Kong have protested in recent weeks against an extradition bill that would have allowed individuals, including foreigners, to be extradited to mainland China to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

Beijing has strongly opposed any discussion of the issue at the G20 summit, saying Hong Kong matters are an internal Chinese affair. The city of 7.4 million people is a territory of China.

"I can tell you that for sure the G20 will not discuss the issue of Hong Kong and we will not allow the G-20 to discuss the issue of Hong Kong," Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun said Monday.

Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed leader Carrie Lam, eventually caved in after some of the worst violence seen in decades on the city's streets, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

'We will keep on fighting'

Lam stopped short of protesters' demands to scrap the bill altogether, saying it would be suspended indefinitely.

"As long as the government doesn't withdraw the bill, and they refuse to respond, then we will keep on fighting," said Aslee Tam, 19, a university student who joined the march.

"We want to make some noise during the G20 meeting, to let other countries discuss the issues in Hong Kong," she added.

A protester walks by the U.S. emblem as he and others stage a protest outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and since then has been governed under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

But many accuse China of increased meddling over the years, obstructing democratic reforms, interfering with elections and of being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who specialized in works critical of Chinese leaders.

'Free HK from China colonization'

At the U.S. consulate, protesters handed over a petition asking U.S. President Donald Trump to "Back Hong Kong at the G20 Summit." They urged Trump in his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to back a full withdrawal of the bill and an independent probe into the actions of Hong Kong police against protesters.

The protesters, some wearing "Liberate Hong Kong" T-shirts, also marched to the British consulate where a man held up a sign: "Free HK from China colonization."

Hong Kong activists opposed to contentious extradition legislation on Wednesday called on leaders of the U.S., the European Union and others to raise the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Parliament on Tuesday that London would ban sales of tear gas to Hong Kong and called for an independent probe into the recent violence — a gesture that was welcomed by some in the crowd.

The protesters divided into three groups and marched peacefully through the city to 16 diplomatic missions, including the Office of the European Union and the consulates of Canada, Argentina, Australia, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Russia and Turkey, amongst others.

"This is the first time so many march to so many consulates to express a single view," said one organizer surnamed Lau.

Issue could embarrass Xi

The protesters carried a manifesto that said China's promise to allow the city a high degree of autonomy after the 1997 handover is now under threat.

Raising Hong Kong's extradition saga at the summit could embarrass Xi at a delicate time of rising trade tensions with the United States, and put more pressure on Hong Kong's leader amid reports that Beijing has serious doubts about Lam's capabilities.

An assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Zhang Jun said this week that China won't allow Hong Kong to be discussed at the G20 in the Japanese city of Osaka.

Hong Kong activists have raised more than $843,000 Cdn in a crowdfunding campaign to take out newspaper ads in major foreign media like the New York Times during the summit to stoke global attention.

Some Hong Kong activists have also travelled to Osaka.

With files from The Associated Press

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