Hong Kong activists gathered outside US and EU consulates to deliver petitions on a legislation law that will allow suspects to be extradited to China, which protesters worry will expose people to unfair trials and possible torture.

A protester holds up a placard outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong on June 26, 2019.
A protester holds up a placard outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong on June 26, 2019. (AP)

Hong Kong protesters marched to major consulates on Wednesday as they called on G20 nations to confront fellow member China at an upcoming summit in Osaka, Japan over sliding freedoms in the financial hub.

The semi-autonomous city has been shaken by huge demonstrations this month with protesters demanding the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

The massive rallies are the latest manifestation of growing fears that China is stamping down on the city’s unique freedoms and culture.

Beijing has strongly opposed such a development, saying Hong Kong matters are strictly an internal Chinese affair.

US President Donald Trump has said he plans to raise the issue during a planned meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Petitioning for intervention

Groups of protesters gathered outside the US and EU consulates to deliver petitions stating their requests.

Opponents say changes to the Chinese territory's legislation could expose citizens of all nationalities to being extradited to China for unfair trials and possible torture, reducing Hong Kong's judicial independence and the civil liberties it retained after the handover from British rule in 1997.

Hong Kong is an international city whose residents will all be affected by the legislation, regardless of their country of origin, said protester Mandy Wong, a college student.

"That's why this is necessary for other countries or overseas people to pay attention to this extradition bill," said Wong, 25.

'Free Hong Kong'

Activists held up placards attacking the legislation and chanted slogans including "Free Hong Kong."

Protesters aimed to present petitions at 19 consulates in total and planned further protest actions for Wednesday evening following a scheduled vote of no-confidence in the local legislature on the administration of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam. 

Government supporters have a solid majority in the assembly and the measure is not expected to pass.

Lam's push to pass the extradition bills has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to fill Hong Kong's streets in protest marches, while smaller groups have surrounded government offices, the legislature and police headquarters. 

They are demanding the total withdrawal of the legislation and accountability for heavy-handed police treatment of protesters at a protest earlier this month during which tear gas and rubber bullets were fired.

Lam has shelved the legislation and apologised for not better handling the matter but has declined to respond to other demands.

Several foreign governments, along with legal, commercial, human rights and media groups in Hong Kong, have expressed concern about the legislation as well as the Hong Kong government's handling of the protests.

In a statement Tuesday in the House of Commons, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he raised the issue with Lam on June 12.

Britain urges Hong Kong to establish a "robust, independent investigation" into the violence against protesters, and will not issue further export licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong "unless we are satisfied that concerns raised on human rights and fundamental freedoms have been thoroughly addressed," Hunt said.

China rejects criticism

China says it fully backs Lam's administration and has rejected foreign commentary over the protests and the extradition issue as interference in its internal affairs.

At a briefing in Beijing Monday, Zhang Jun, an assistant foreign minister, said, "I can tell you that for sure the G-20 will not discuss the issue of Hong Kong and we will not allow the G-20 to discuss the issue of Hong Kong."

Hong Kong's government "has taken a series of measures to safeguard fairness and justice of society and to block loopholes in the legal system. We believe what they have done is completely necessary and the central government supports these measures," he said.

Source: AP