China has warned Canada not to grant political asylum to Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, labeling them violent criminals and saying the action would constitute interference in China’s internal affairs.
Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu said Thursday that “if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about 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 SAR [Special Administrative Region], you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes.”
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne called Cong's statement "totally unacceptable and disturbing."
"I have instructed Global Affairs to call the ambassador in to make clear in no uncertain terms that Canada will always stand up for human rights and the rights of Canadians around the world," Champagne said in a statement published by Canadian news organizations.
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly criticized Beijing for "coercive diplomacy" and for the crackdowns in Hong Kong and on Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
At his press briefing Thursday, Cong countered Trudeau's comments, saying there was no coercive diplomacy on the Chinese side, adding that “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."
Protests of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government and the Chinese government continued in the city for months last year and resulted in a new national security law for Hong Kong that took effect June 30.
The law punishes secessionist movements, subversive or terrorist acts, and what it interprets as collusion with foreign forces intervening in the city's affairs.
Western powers, including the United States, Britain and Canada have strongly condemned the law and have accused China of infringing on Hong Kong’s freedoms.