Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun said on Monday that China will not allow the massive protests in Hong Kong to be discussed at the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Authoritarian China cannot silence representatives from other nations at the summit, the way it can oppress its own people, so what Zhang really meant is that China’s representatives will refuse to discuss Hong Kong if asked. U.S. officials have indicated President Donald Trump will broach the subject with Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping in Osaka.
“I can tell you with certainty that the G20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue and we will not allow the G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue,” Zhang said at a press conference on Monday.
“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to intervene. We will not allow any country or anybody to meddle in the internal affairs of China by any means,” he said.
Hong Kong protest organizers did not receive these statements well, mocking the notion of Beijing’s delegation to the G20 refusing to discuss one of the biggest news stories on the planet.
“It’s like a person has serious violent tendencies and hits members of his family, but tells his neighbors not to interfere in his internal family affairs. Is this reasonable?” protest organizer Jimmy Sham asked.
The Hong Kong demonstrators are still a force to be reckoned with, summoning enough manpower on Monday to blockade the tax and immigration offices before returning to the locus of demonstrations over the past few weeks, the legislative headquarters building or LegCo.
Protest organizers said they would continue until the government withdraws the controversial extradition bill supported by Beijing permanently, drops charges against protesters, and investigates the use of excessive police force during the most chaotic period of demonstrations on June 12. Some also continue to call for the resignation of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, while others appear to have relaxed that demand.
Organizers are clearly conscious of the approaching G20 summit and would like to be on the international news radar when the summit occurs, but the South China Morning Post noted on Monday that even some Hong Kong residents sympathetic to the demonstrators’ goals are growing a little annoyed with the periodic shutdown of important government services such as the tax office.
In contrast, the SCMP described the Hong Kong government as “lying low” this week to “avoid rocking the boat” ahead of the G20 summit. Carrie Lam has been all but invisible since tendering a public apology last week that her critics found unsatisfying.
Lam abruptly canceled a weekly cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday and signaled she would not make any public announcements before the G20 summit this coming Friday and Saturday. Other top officials are striving to reassure the public that the extradition bill is effectively dead even though it has not been formally withdrawn as the protesters demand.
Lam supporters and pro-Beijing politicians see full withdrawal as an unacceptable sign of weakness that would embolden the demonstrators to demand even more difficult reforms, although some of her allies have begun talking about offering full withdrawal as a compromise if the demonstrators drop the rest of their demands and refrain from embarrassing China during the G20 summit.
Demonstrators have taken their movement online with a barrage of viral videos and memes, many of them quite ribald, and gained considerable support from the Hong Kong business community, which worries about losing the stability and autonomy that has kept the city prosperous since control was returned to China by the United Kingdom over 20 years ago.
Even some business tycoons politically sympathetic to mainland China have expressed concern that the extradition law could damage Hong Kong financially, a concern that is likely to find some expression during the G20 meeting.
Hong Kong pro-democracy groups announced over the weekend that they will organize a major rally on Wednesday, leaving just enough time for the government to offer concessions before the G20 gets into full swing.
“Before this important event on the international stage, we should rally again to deal another blow to Carrie Lam! Hongkongers, stand firm!” a poster advertising the Wednesday rally said.
Politicians and human rights activists in Germany and Canada have urged their countries’ delegations to discuss the Hong Kong extradition bill, the protests, and the police response during the G20 summit.