China will not allow G20 to discuss Hong Kong, says foreign minister

China will not allow G20 to discuss Hong Kong, says foreign minister

Foreign powers have no right to interfere in ‘internal affair’, says Zhang Jun, as Beijing also calls for trade compromise

China has said it will not allow the G20 nations to discuss the Hong Kong issue at its summit this week, assistant foreign minister Zhang Jun said on Monday.

Millions of people demonstrated on the streets of the city this month against a bill that would allow people to be extradited to the mainland to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist party.

It triggered the most violent protests in decades when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds. The extradition bill and police reaction to the protests drew international criticism from rights groups.

Chinese president Xi Jinping and US president Donald Trump will meet at the G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka this week amid heightened trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

“What I can tell you for sure is that G20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue. We will not allow G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue,” Zhang said in Beijing, when asked whether Trump and Xi would discuss Hong Kong at the G20.

“Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region. Hong Kong matters are purely an internal affair to China. No foreign country has a right to interfere,” Zhang said.

“No matter at what venue, using any method, we will not permit any country or person to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

The statement came as dozens of protesters staged a demonstration in the lobby of Hong Kong’s tax office headquarters on Monday afternoon.

Protesters entered the building at 12.30pm and forced the building to close as they occupied the crowded lobby and blocked people from going into the building. “Retract the evil law! Release the fighters!”, they chanted. Arguments broke out between protesters and frustrated citizens who tried to get into the building.

The protest was part of an on-going non-cooperation campaign started last Friday by protesters in the hope of obstructing the government’s day-to-day work to force the government to address their demands, including a full retraction of the extradition bill and the release of people arrested in the protests during past weeks.

In Beijing, Chinese vice commerce minister Wang Shouwen also said both China and the United States should make compromises in trade talks ahead of the much-anticipated Trump-Xi meeting.

Talks to reach a broad deal broke down last month after US officials accused China of backing away from previously agreed commitments.

Speaking at a news briefing on the G20 summit, Wang, who is also part of the trade negotiating team with the United States, said talks between the two countries’ trade teams were under way, though he gave no details.

China’s principles are clear, he said – mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit and meeting each other halfway.

“Mutual respect means each side must respect the other’s sovereignty,” Wang said.
“Equality and mutual benefit means the consultations have to happen on an equal basis, the agreement to be reached has to be beneficial for both sides,.

“Meeting each other half way means both sides have to compromise and make concessions, not just one side.”

Wang declined to answer a question about what specific compromises Xi may offer to win a trade deal with Trump.

The two countries are in the middle of a costly trade dispute and have imposed increasingly severe tariffs on each other’s imports. China has vowed to not give in on issues of principle nor under US pressure.

Trump has threatened to put tariffs on another $325bn of goods, covering nearly all the remaining Chinese imports into the United States, including consumer products such as cellphones, computers and clothing.