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Protesters urge discussion of Hong Kong issue at G-20 summit

Extradition legislation could allow citizens of all nationalities to be extradited to mainland China for unfair trials and possible torture.
Credit: AP
A protester holds up a placard outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Wednesday, June 26, 2019. 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 at this week's G-20 summit in Japan. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong activists opposed to extradition legislation urged the leaders of the U.S., the European Union and others on Wednesday to raise the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping at this week's G-20 summit in Japan.

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

Groups of protesters gathered outside the U.S. and EU consulates on Wednesday morning to deliver petitions stating their requests.

Opponents say the bills could allow citizens of all nationalities to be extradited to mainland China for unfair trials and possible torture, reducing Hong Kong's judicial independence and the civil liberties it retained after its 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 it is necessary for other countries or overseas people to pay attention to this extradition bill," said Wong, 25.

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

Protesters aimed to present petitions at 19 consulates and planned further protests Wednesday evening after a scheduled no-confidence vote by lawmakers in the administration of the territory's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Pro-government supporters have a solid majority in the Legislative Assembly and the measure was not expected to pass.

Lam's push to pass the extradition bills 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 apologized for her handling of 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.

He said 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."

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

At a daily briefing Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang criticized British officials for making "irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs."

"China has expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to that. We urge the British side to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs in any way," Geng said.

At a briefing in Beijing on Monday, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun ruled out any discussion of Hong Kong at the G-20 meeting in the Japanese city of Osaka.

"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," he said.

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.

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Associated Press video journalists Dake Kang and Nadia Lam contributed to this report.