China tells 'colonial' Britain: hands off Hong Kong

China told Britain to keep its hands off Hong Kong on Wednesday while London called for Beijing to honour the agreements made when the city was handed over in 1997, escalating a diplomatic spat over the former British colony.

Beijing denounced British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt as "shameless" and said it had made a diplomatic complaint to London after he warned of consequences if China neglected its commitments to guarantee basic freedoms.

"In the minds of some people, they regard Hong Kong as still under British rule. They forget ... that Hong Kong has now returned to the embrace of the Motherland," China's ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, said.

"I tell them: hands off Hong Kong and show respect. This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians," Liu told reporters.

The growing war of words between China and Britain follows mass protests in Hong Kong against a now suspended bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.

Hundreds of protesters in the former British colony besieged and broke into the legislature on Monday after a demonstration marking the anniversary of return to Chinese rule.

China called the violence an "undisguised challenge" to the "one country, two systems" model under which Hong Kong has been ruled for 22 years.

On Tuesday, Hunt warned of consequences if China did not abide by the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 on the terms of the return of Hong Kong, which allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including the right to protest.

"We can make it clear we stand behind the people of Hong Kong in defence of the freedoms that we negotiated for them when we agreed to the handover in 1997 and we can remind everyone that we expect all countries to honour their international obligations," Hunt told Reuters.

Hunt is one of two contenders vying to replace Theresa May as British prime minister and his rival Boris Johnson told Reuters on Wednesday that he also backed the people of Hong Kong "every inch of the way".

The comments clearly irked Beijing. China's London envoy scolded Britain and said meddling in Hong Kong would cause a "problem in the relationship" between them.

"The UK government chose to stand on the wrong side: it has made inappropriate remarks not only to interfere in internal affairs of Hong Kong but also to back up the violent law-breakers," Liu said.

'SHAMELESS'

Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang chided Hunt, saying that only after Hong Kong's return to China did its people get an "unprecedented" guarantee about democracy and freedom.

"To say that the freedoms of Hong Kong residents is something Britain strived for is simply shameless," he told a news briefing. "I would like to ask Mr. Hunt, during the British colonial era in Hong Kong, was there any democracy to speak of? Hong Kongers didn't even have the right to protest."

China had lodged "stern representations" with Britain both in Beijing and London about Hunt's remarks, he added.

Britain said it had summoned Liu to the foreign office following his "unacceptable" comments, a government source said.

"Message to Chinese govt: good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honouring the legally binding agreements between them," Hunt said on Twitter after Liu's media briefing.

"That is the best way to preserve the great relationship between the UK and China."

RESETTING TIES

The turbulence in Hong Kong was triggered by an extradition bill opponents say will undermine Hong Kong's much-cherished rule of law and give Beijing powers to prosecute activists in mainland courts, which are controlled by the Communist Party.

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam had strongly promoted the bill, but suspended it on June 15 in the face of public protests against it. Critics have called on her to officially kill the bill, but she has resisted.

Britain and China had been seeking to reset ties after a row over the disputed South China Sea last year, with Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua visiting London last month to oversee the start of a link between its stock exchange and that of Shanghai.

Confrontation and lawlessness in Hong Kong could damage its reputation as an international business hub and seriously hurt its economy, China's top newspaper, the People's Daily, said in an editorial.

31 PHOTOS
Hong Kong protests
See Gallery
Hong Kong protests
Riot police clear the streets outside the Legislative Council building, after protesters stormed the building on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China, in Hong Kong, China July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Hong Kong has been hit by weeks of protests over a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial.
Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 2, 2019. - Riot police fired tear gas as they attempted to dislodge anti-government protesters in the early hours of the morning of July 2 in chaotic scenes in the heart of Hong Kong. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 2, 2019. - Riot police fired tear gas as they attempted to dislodge anti-government protesters in the early hours of the morning of July 2 in chaotic scenes in the heart of Hong Kong. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Police stand guard on roads after protesters broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 2, 2019. - Riot police fired tear gas as they attempted to dislodge anti-government protesters in the early hours of the morning of July 2 in chaotic scenes in the heart of Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 2, 2019. - Riot police fired tear gas as they attempted to dislodge anti-government protesters in the early hours of the morning of July 2 in chaotic scenes in the heart of Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police fire tear gas at protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 2, 2019. - Riot police fired tear gas as they attempted to dislodge anti-government protesters in the early hours of the morning of July 2 in chaotic scenes in the heart of Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters and members of the media are seen in the parliament chambers after protesters broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Hundreds of protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament late on July 1 as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, ransacking the building and daubing its walls with graffiti as the city plunged into unprecedented depths of political chaos. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2019/07/01: Anti government demonstrators use umbrellas as shields, they also wear protective gears such as gas masks, helmets and eye goggles to defend themselves from police pepper spray and tear gas as they try to storm the legislative council building. Hundreds of protesters gather outside the legislative council building and attempt to force their way in and occupy Hong Kong's parliament on July 1 as the territory marked the anniversary of its 22nd anniversary handover to China. (Photo by Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters smash glass doors and windows of the Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 01, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters gather outside Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 01, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
A protester defaces the Hong Kong emblem after protesters broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Hundreds of protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament late on July 1 as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, ransacking the building and daubing its walls with graffiti as the city plunged into unprecedented depths of political chaos. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters break into the Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters broke into Hong Kong's legislature on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of the territory's return to China from Britain after riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention center, citing bad weather, as tens of thousands protesters marched separately after the ceremony that morning. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Protesters break into the chamber of Legislative Council in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Anti-government protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament building late on July 1 after successfully smashing their way through reinforced glass windows and prizing open metal shutters that were blocking their way. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters break into the parliament chambers of the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Hundreds of protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament late on July 1 as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, ransacking the building and daubing its walls with graffiti as the city plunged into unprecedented depths of political chaos. (Photo by VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP) (Photo credit should read VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters take part in a rally against extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters take part in a rally against extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters smash glass doors and windows to break into the parliament chamber of Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Protesters spray graffiti in the parliament chamber after they broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Hundreds of protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament late on July 1 as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, ransacking the building and daubing its walls with graffiti as the city plunged into unprecedented depths of political chaos. (Photo by VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP) (Photo credit should read VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters use a recycling bin to break the glass inside the Legislative Council while protesting against the extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre. (Photo by Ivan Shum/Clicks Images via Getty Images)
A protester waves the British Union Jack flag in the parliament chamber after they broke into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Hundreds of protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament late on July 1 as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, ransacking the building and daubing its walls with graffiti as the city plunged into unprecedented depths of political chaos. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Protesters gather outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July1, 2019. - Hundreds of protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament late on July 1 as the territory marked its China handover anniversary, ransacking the building and daubing its walls with graffiti as the city plunged into unprecedented depths of political chaos. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters break into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Anti-government protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament building late on July 1 after successfully smashing their way through reinforced glass windows and prizing open metal shutters that were blocking their way. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters break into the Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters smash glass doors and windows to break into the parliament chamber of Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JULY 01: Protesters smash glass doors and windows to break into the parliament chamber of Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters faced off with riot police on Monday during the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule as riot police officers used batons and pepper spray to push back demonstrators. The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam watched a flag-raising ceremony on a video display from inside a convention centre, citing bad weather, as water-filled barricades were set up around the exhibition centre.(Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
A protester walks past a sign for the government headquarters after they broke into the building in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Anti-government protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament building late on July 1 after successfully smashing their way through reinforced glass windows and prizing open metal shutters that were blocking their way. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters break into the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019, on the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. - Anti-government protesters stormed Hong Kong's parliament building late on July 1 after successfully smashing their way through reinforced glass windows and prizing open metal shutters that were blocking their way. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters are seen moving barricades down the road in Hong Kong, China. 1 July 2019. Protesters today clash with police with police using pepper spray and batons to disperses Protesters , protesters started occupying road early morning on the 22th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong From the United Kingdom to China. (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Police Officers are seen waving their batons in Hong Kong, China. 1 July 2019. Protesters today clash with police with police using pepper spray and batons to disperses Protesters , protesters started occupying road early morning on the 22th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong From the United Kingdom to China. (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Protester is seen lying on the ground while police surround him in Hong Kong, China. 1 July 2019. Protesters today clash with police with police using pepper spray and batons to disperses Protesters , protesters started occupying road early morning on the 22th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong From the United Kingdom to China. (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"It will not only serve no purpose, but will also severely hinder economic and social development," the ruling Communist Party's official paper said, denouncing what it called artificially created division and opposition.

China has blamed Western countries, particularly the United States and Britain, for offering succour to the protests.

In an editorial, the official China Daily, an English-language newspaper Beijing often uses to send its message to the world, condemned "outside agitations".

"What has also been notable is the hypocrisy of some Western governments - the United States and United Kingdom most prominently - which have called for a stop to the violence, as if they have had nothing to do with it," the paper said.

"But, looking back at the whole protest saga, they have been deeply involved in fuelling it since its inception."

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS