HONG KONG - China is accusing the United States of interfering in its internal affairs as opposition grows in Hong Kong over a controversial plan to allow people to be extradited to the mainland to face charges.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the comments Tuesday in Beijing in response to U.S. concerns over the proposed legislation in the autonomous territory.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is preparing to send the bill to the city’s legislature on Wednesday for debate, defying a massive protest Sunday attended by hundreds of thousands of citizens.
The bill will allow Hong Kong to extradite people to countries where it lacks a long-term agreement, like mainland China, Macau and Taiwan. The prospect of extradition to China in particular, which has a substantially different legal system, has alarmed a wide cross section of Hong Kong -- from international business groups to legal societies and pro-democracy parties.
Protesters plan to camp outside Legislative Council on Tuesday night and "picnic" on its grounds on Wednesday before the bill's second reading. More than one hundred businesses plan to close that day to allow their employees to attend. Many participants in Sunday’s mass protest carried signs calling for Lam’s resignation.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was granted special autonomy for 50 years after it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. But many in Hong Kong are concerned that China is slowly encroaching on those rights and tightening its grip on the territory.
The so-called Umbrella Movement protests were launched in 2014 to demand the direct election of the city's top leader after China reneged on promises of universal suffrage by 2017. The protests ended without winning any concessions from the Hong Kong government.