Washington: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with Hong Kong-based businessman Jimmy Lai here on Monday and discussed the controversial extradition bill and the status of the former British colony’s autonomy.
“Secretary Michael R. Pompeo met with Hong Kong businessman and publisher Jimmy Lai today in Washington, D.C. They discussed developments related to amendments to Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
The meeting comes as Hong Kong has been shaken by huge demonstrations against the extradition bill or the ‘Fugitive Offenders Ordinance’ in recent weeks, which many fear could be used to deport political activists and dissidents to mainland China.
The bill was proposed on April 3 and its opposers argue that its controversial amendments will leave anyone on Hong Kong soil vulnerable to being grabbed by the Chinese authorities for political reasons or inadvertent business offences.
On July 6, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Hong Kong in a bid to keep up the pressure on the ruling government to withdraw the bill that has triggered a series of mass rallies in recent weeks.
The protesters had gathered in an enclave near the Tsim Sha Tsui mall in the city, frequently visited by Chinese tourists and connected by a high-speed railway to the mainland, hoping to take their grievances against Beijing directly to its people.
The crowd had chanted “free Hong Kong” in Mandarin, the official language in China, instead of Cantonese, the official language of Hong Kong, and handed out Hong Kong newspapers and posters advertising the upheaval in the city over the past weeks.
Despite the multiple protests, agitators have claimed that Chief Executive Carrie Lam has not yet responded to their demands of entirely scrapping the bill, even after she publicly apologised for having proposed the controversial legislation.