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China Demands Germany Return Two Hong Kong Pro-Independence Activists

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BEIJING – The foreign relations department of the People’s Republic of China has demanded that Germany immediately return to two Hong Kong pro-independence activists after it granted refugee status, the state news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.

Xinhua said the Hong Kong office of China’s foreign ministry summoned Germany’s Acting Consul General to Hong Kong David Schmidt for an emergency meeting on Friday, where a representative expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition”.

The two Hong Kong activists – Ray Wong, 25, and Alan Li, 27 – were former members of Hong Kong Indigenous, a group advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China. They were charged for rioting linked to a protest that turned violent in February 2016.

The pair, who later skipped bail and fled to Germany in 2017 via Taiwan, told Reuters this week they were granted refugee asylum status in Germany in May 2018.

Pro-China protesters hand a letter to a representative from the German Consulate in Hong Kong to against Berlin’s decision to grant refugee status to Wong and a colleague who face charges of rioting. – Photo AP

“(China) urges the German side to recognize its mistakes and change its course, and not to accept and condone criminals, and interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” Xinhua said.

The German consulate said this week it was aware that the two Hong Kong residents were staying in Germany, although it could not provide details on individual cases.

Hong Kong activists have become increasingly defiant in recent years, concerned about creeping interference from Beijing despite a promise of special autonomy for the city, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Scores of activists have been jailed on various charges including contempt of court and public nuisance. Critics said Hong Kong authorities have brought such charges to stifle freedom of expression and assembly.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has also expressed “deep regrets and strong objections” to the German authorities.

Hong Kong authorities deny persecuting activists.

Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ben Blanchard