BERLIN – Germany's consul general to Hong Kong was brought in for talks, following reports Berlin had granted asylum to a student who faced prosecution for demonstrating against the city's extradition law, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
The ministry confirmed that Consul General Dieter Lamle had been summoned Wednesday by Hong Kong authorities, but wouldn't provide further details.
Hong Kong's government said in a statement that Lamle was brought in at the request of Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, who told him the government “strongly objects to the harboring of criminals under different pretexts by other jurisdictions.”
The diplomatic friction came after a 22-year-old student revealed earlier this week that Germany had granted her asylum.
The woman, who identified herself only as Elaine and declined to give other personal details to protect her family in Hong Kong, showed The Associated Press paperwork confirming her refugee status was granted Oct. 14. German authorities haven't confirmed her story, citing the country's strict privacy laws.
She told the AP she fled Hong Kong in November while free on bail after being arrested on allegations of rioting and violating the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s law banning masks, introduced last year as anti-government protests became increasingly violent.
The Hong Kong government called her a "suspect who has reportedly committed serious crimes and jumped bail."
“Mr. Cheung reiterated that foreign governments should stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are internal matters of the People’s Republic of China,” the statement said.
Protests against the Hong Kong government roiled the city last year after authorities tried to introduce a bill that would allow for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. While that bill was eventually scrapped, protests against police violence and the erosion of liberties continued, prompting Beijing to impose a new national security law that took effect June 30.
The law outlaws subversive, secessionist and terrorist activity, as well as collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s internal affairs. Many say the legislation effectively ends the “one country, two systems” framework under which semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been operating under since Beijing took over the former British colony in 1997.
The law prompted many young pro-democracy residents to make plans to leave the city for good.
Germany already raised Hong Kong's ire in 2018 by granting two pro-democracy activists asylum, prompting Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to summon the German consul to complain then as well.