China’s Party Secretary Xi Jinping is preparing to make his first trip to Japan this week, to meet with world leaders at the G-20 Summit in Osaka. During the summit, Xi is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, either Thursday or Friday, in order to resume negotiations on the United States trade agreement that reached a standoff last month.
One subject that China’s delegation intends to keep out of discussions, however, is Hong Kong and the unprecedented civil protests that have halted a proposed new extradition agreement between the Special Administrative Region and the mainland.
Speaking at a press conference, on Monday, June 24, China’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Jun made clear that the subject of Hong Kong would be out of bounds during the G-20 summit. “What I can tell you for sure is that G-20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue. We will not allow G-20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue.”
Zhang offered little further explanation of the decision, though perhaps little explanation is needed. “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,” Zhang stated.
Civil protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since Sunday, June 9, when as many as 1 million demonstrators filled the streets to express outrage over a controversial extradition bill that would increase Beijing’s ability to arrest and extradite people in Hong Kong who are suspected of a crime.
Many people in Hong Kong see this as a clear encroachment upon their rights by China’s authoritarian government in Beijing. They fear that this law could be used as a political weapon and target anyone whom China’s Communist Party views as a political opponent, and this could include democracy supporters, journalists, and human rights advocates, among others.
Protests reached a peak on Sunday, June 16, when as many as 2 million demonstrators brought the city to a standstill. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has agreed to suspend discussion of the proposed extradition law, in an effort to alleviate political pressure that has included calls for her resignation.
One reason China hopes to squelch any discussion of Hong Kong is presumably to prevent further news coverage of the large-scale protests from reaching mainland China.
As previously reported, China-state television stations have been misreporting the events in Hong Kong, in order to downplay the size of demonstrations. China Daily, a CCP-controlled newspaper, has tried to counter outside media by reporting that there is widespread support for the proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong.
Some state media have even claimed that protesters seen in leaked video footage are actually demonstrating against the United States, rather than against the proposed extradition law in Hong Kong.
Global media coverage of the G-20 Summit could very easily spin out of Beijing’s control should a question or two about the Hong Kong protests come up during the week’s high-profile meetings.
“No matter at what venue, using any method, we will not permit any country or person to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Zhang warned reporters. Whether other countries’ delegates and reporters toe the line remains to be seen.