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China warns Canada against granting asylum to Hong Kong 'criminals'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hong Kong police officers detain people during a protest, on Chinese National Day in Hong Kong, October 1, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

China has warned the Canadian government against granting asylum to Hong Kong "criminals," who fled a national security law after taking part in last year’s violent protests in the Chinese territory.

Chinese ambassador to the country, Cong Peiwu said on Thursday that granting political asylum to those people would amount to "interference in China's domestic affairs, and certainly it will embolden those violent criminals."

“We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong," Cong said in a video press conference in Ottawa.

His remarks came in reaction to a report that a Hong Kong couple had been granted refugee status in Canada.

Cong said this could jeopardize “the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong."

Earlier this year, Canada joined the West in criticizing Beijing for imposing a new national security law for Hong Kong, which they say harms the city’s semi-autonomous status.

The new law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces with sentences of up to life in prison in Hong Kong.

Under the law, mainland security agencies are also officially based in Hong Kong for the first time since 1997, when the city’s rule returned from Britain to China.

Kong Kong has been governed under the “one-country, two-system” model since then, meaning that Chinese sovereignty is applied to the city even as it has its own government.

Canada, along with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong over the enactment of the new law in the city.

China says the security law had been an “an excuse” for those countries to unilaterally suspend their extradition treaties with the Chinese region.

The Chinese envoy in Ottawa also reacted to allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said earlier this week that he would work with allies to fight China's "coercive diplomacy."

Cong dismissed the allegations, saying, "The Hong Kong issue and the Xinjiang-related issue are not about the issue of human rights."

“They are purely about internal affairs of China, which brooks no interference from the outside," he added.

The West accuses China of mistreating its Uighur Muslim minority, which makes up about 45 percent of Xinjiang’ s population.

The community has long accused Beijing of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

Beijing, however, vehemently denies the allegations as well as other reports that Uighurs are unfairly marginalized.

China, in turn, accuses what it described as exiled Uighur separatist groups of planning attacks in the resource-rich region, which is key to China’s growing energy needs.

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