Over 100 pro-Beijing loyalists have received instructions from the top Chinese official in Hong Kong to fully support the chief executive and her administration’s push to amend the city’s extradition laws.
Wang Zhimin, the director of the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong, spoke to local delegates to the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) for nearly two hours on Friday.
Wang told attendees to support the bill and better explain it to the public, according to pro-Beijing heavyweight Tam Yiu-chung. Tam added that Wang was more interested in relaying Beijing’s directions rather than having an exchange of views.
“He mentioned the ‘four believes’: we must believe in ourselves, believe in the administration, believe in the local courts and believe in the rule of law,” Tam said, citing Wang.
The bill proposed by the Hong Kong government would allow fugitive transfers to jurisdictions with which the city has no pre-existing extradition deal. Pro-democracy lawmakers have stalled the bill’s legislative process, as lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses expressed concerns over whether residents will be extradited to the mainland.
On Friday, Wang reportedly pushed back forcefully against “foreign interference” during the closed-door meeting, saying that the bill must not provide an opportunity for people to destabilise Hong Kong.
Asked if the liaison office was overstepping its bounds, Tam told reporters that Wang brushed off such concerns during the meeting.
“Wang said… there have already been many people talking about this in the US and other countries. They are allowed to talk, but can the central government not express its opinion? That would be impossible,” he said.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung also defended the move by the liaison office, saying it was “understandable” that the central government was concerned.
Over the past month, legal scholars and political parties have tried to assuage the public’s fears by proposing alternatives to the government’s plan. Wang, however, told attendees on Friday that the amendment will continue as scheduled, and there will be no room for major changes on “questions of principle.”
Wang rejected a plan to extend the jurisdiction of Hong Kong courts, and similarly poured cold water on the idea of “Hong Kong people facing trial in Hong Kong.” The law must also operate retroactively and a “sunset clause” was infeasible, he added.
The meeting drew around 30 protesters, who marched from the Western Police Station to the liaison office bearing slogans such as “NPC delegates don’t represent me” and “Shame on those who sell out Hong Kong.”
‘Sai Wan will be furious’
The China Liaison Office was also mentioned during a “hot mic” incident at the legislature. At a Friday meeting debating the national anthem law, pro-Beijing lawmaker Martin Liao was heard telling a colleague that the liaison office would be “furious” if the meeting was stalled.
Liao, who was chairing the meeting, spoke during a lull when democrats demanded a quorum call in protest: “I don’t mind if the meeting gets adjourned for a bit, so people can be alerted. But Sai Wan will definitely be furious.”
The liaison office is often informally referred to as “Sai Wan” owing to the location of its headquarters.
Pro-democracy camp convenor Claudia Mo later told reporters that Liao’s comment was proof that the central government was pulling the strings behind Carrie Lam’s administration.
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