China warns Canada to stay out of Hong Kong extradition fight

Click to play video: 'Canada has followed extradition treaty commitments  with Meng Wanzhou, says Freeland'
Canada has followed extradition treaty commitments with Meng Wanzhou, says Freeland
WATCH: Freeland says Canada has abided by extradition laws in Wanzhou case – Jun 13, 2019

China is cautioning Canada against “intervening in the normal legislation process” following what it calls “irresponsible and erroneous” comments from the government about a controversial extradition bill.

The warning came mere hours after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland put out a statement reiterating Canada’s concerns about the planned law.

Violent protests erupted this week in Hong Kong in response to a bill that would allow the government to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China for trial.

WATCH: Hong Kong protests erupt into chaos, violence in clash with police

Click to play video: 'Hong Kong protests erupt into chaos, violence in clash with police'
Hong Kong protests erupt into chaos, violence in clash with police

Supporters of the proposed law believe it is crucial for public safety, while critics say the bill would bring the former British colony decisively under China’s control if passed.

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“Canada has been closely following the proposals of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which would allow for individuals in Hong Kong to be transferred to all jurisdictions, including mainland China, for prosecution,” Freeland said in a written statement Wednesday.

“We urge the Hong Kong government to listen to its people and its many friends around the world, and allow time for thorough consultation and consideration before making any amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.”

Freeland said Canada remains concerned about the “potential effect” the bill could have on Canadian citizens living or working in Hong Kong, as well as Hong Kong’s “international reputation.”

“Freedom of expression and assembly are the bedrock of Hong Kong’s free society,” Freeland said. “It is vital that any legislation preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rule of law, and independent judiciary.”

The Chinese Embassy in Canada retorted in a statement shortly after.

“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs. No other country, organization or individual has the right to interfere,” the statement reads.

“Recently, some people from the Canadian government made irresponsible and erroneous comments on the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region] government’s amendment to the ordinance and other Hong Kong affairs.
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The embassy said that it is acts of violence and “damage to social peace” that impact its international reputation and called the bill a “normal legislative act.”

“If the Canadian side really respects the rule of law and really hopes that Hong Kong will remain prosperous and stable, it should support the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong SAR in advancing the amendment to the ordinance in accordance with the law, rather than encourage or support riot-makers in obstructing and undermining the legislative activities of the SAR government.”

The relationship between Canada and China has deteriorated since December, when Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver following an extradition request by the U.S.

The arrest of the senior Huawei executive infuriated China.

Since then, two Canadians have been detained in China on allegations of espionage and two others sentenced to death for drug-related convictions. China has also blocked key agricultural shipments from Canada, namely canola.

In a news conference on Thursday, Freeland rejected a suggestion that the federal government block Wanzhou’s extradition.

“When it comes to Ms. Wanzhou there has been no political interference… and that is the right way for extradition requests to proceed,” she said from Washington.

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WATCH: Police defend use of force in violent Hong Kong protests

Click to play video: 'Officers ‘rightfully used force’ in violent Hong Kong protests: Police'
Officers ‘rightfully used force’ in violent Hong Kong protests: Police

While political unrest lingers in China, normal security measures remain in place for Canadians in Hong Kong.

Global Affairs Canada has kept a low risk level for the Chinese region since the demonstrations began on June 9, asking travellers to take “normal security precautions” and “exercise caution” in certain places.

Canadian travellers have been asked to avoid areas where protests have swelled, such as Admiralty, Tamar Park and the Central Government Complex.

Global Affairs warned that protests in these areas “may continue for several days” and said disruptions to traffic and transportation in the area are likely.

However, after a violent Wednesday that saw police officers use tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters who breached their barrier, crowds dissolved overnight and traffic returned to normal in the heart of Hong Kong by morning.

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Police later defended their use of force, saying they “tried to avoid confrontation” with the “hostile” and “unstable” crowd, but needed to contain the situation and protect themselves.

The Associated Press reported that 11 people were arrested and charged and that 79 people were being treated for protest-related injuries. Local police said 22 officers were also injured during the commotion.

Despite the resistance to the bill, the government has stood firm.

However, on Thursday, Hong Kong’s legislature suspended meetings surrounding the bill while leaders discuss next steps. It is unclear when it will resume.

With files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press

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