Massive Hong Kong Anti-extradition Protests Are the Work of 'Foreign Forces,' Chinese State Media Claims

Massive public protests in Hong Kong against a proposed change to the semi-autonomous province's policy on extraditing criminals to China has been dismissed by Beijing state media as foreign-driven plots involving "hoodwinked" locals.

On Sunday, Hong Kong was swamped with protesters marching against plans to allow the extradition of criminals to mainland China. Opponents fear this would enable Beijing to target its political opponents in the territory and undermine the "one country, two systems" agreement active since Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese control by the U.K. in 1997.

Organizers of Sunday's action said more than 1 million marchers—which would mean one in every seven Hong Kong residents—took to the streets, though the BBC quoted local police as putting the number at 240,000. Another march is planned for Wednesday, though Hong Kong's pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she will not scrap the plan.

Chinese state media dismissed the concerns of Hong Kong residents, many of whom fear encroachment on personal and political liberties enjoyed in the special administrative region but not on the mainland.

An editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper said the "long overdue" legal amendments were being introduced to "prevent Hong Kong from becoming a safe haven for criminals." The article argued the plan "should receive the support of the local community," and said the protests were a result of Hong Kong residents being "misled" about the changes or of others "maneuvering to promote a political agenda."

Criminals convicted in China cannot currently be extradited from Hong Kong to the mainland. China Daily argued that this situation "has undermined Hong Kong's reputation as a rule-of-law society that is intolerant of crime; it has compromised cooperative law enforcement efforts with other places; and it has weakened the confidence of law enforcers elsewhere in Hong Kong's ability to hold criminals to account and combat crime."

But opponents of the proposed amendments argue that the extradition ban is a key protection for Hong Kong residents, many of whom oppose Communist Party rule on the mainland and have previously demanded pro-democracy reforms. If the amendment is passed, such activists could, in theory, be convicted in absentia in China and face extradition and trial on the mainland.

China Daily rejected such concerns, instead suggesting that "some Hong Kong residents have been hoodwinked by the opposition camp and their foreign allies into supporting the anti-extradition campaign."

The author claimed that Sunday's marchers "have failed to realize that the opposition camp is using them merely as pawns" to achieve its own political aims, which would damage the "credibility and reputation" of the territory.

The article also said that "some foreign forces are seizing the opportunity to advance their own strategy to hurt China by trying to create havoc in Hong Kong." The author did not present any evidence to support this claim.

Hong Kong, China, extradition, protests, state media
Protesters march on a street during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal on June 9, 2019 in Hong Kong. Getty/Anthony Kwan