One day after Beijing lashed out at the US and Britain for “gross interference” in Hong Kong protests, the diplomatic tiff between China and the “democratic west” over the Hong Kong confrontations escalated on Wednesday when China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, was summoned to the Foreign Office after telling the UK to keep its “hands off Hong Kong and show respect”.
Foreign Office source: Chinese ambassador summoned to the FCO later today. PUS Sir Simon McDonald will set out UK’s view that comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry & Chinese Ambassador in response to remarks by Foreign Secretary on Hong Kong are both unacceptable and inaccurate.
— James Landale (@BBCJLandale) July 3, 2019
The ambassador also warned that “They forget that Hong Kong has now returned to the embrace of the Motherland” and added that the UK was “interfering” in China’s affairs in Hong Kong and “should seriously reflect on the consequences of its words and deeds”, to wit:
“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. I tell them: hands off Hong Kong and show respect,” Liu added. “This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians.”
The Chinese diplomat also said those who illegally occupied Hong Kong’s Parliament should be “condemned as law breakers”.
In response, the BBC reports that Simon McDonald, head of the diplomatic service at the FCO, would tell Mr Liu in no uncertain terms that what he said was inappropriate and inaccurate, with Sky News adding that Xiaoming would be given a dressing down after accusing London of forgetting the territory is no longer a British colony, alleging that a “colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians”. He will also be told his comments are both “unacceptable and inaccurate”, `Sky’s defence and security correspondent Alistair Bunkall said. Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May said she had raised concerns with Chinese leaders.
Weeks of mass protests in the territory over a controversial extradition bill exploded on Monday, when a group of activists occupied the Legislative Council building for several hours after breaking away from a peaceful protest – raising the colonial-era British flag.
Critics say the extradition bill could be used to send political dissidents from Hong Kong to the mainland.
Demonstrators have also broadened their demands to include the release of all detained activists and investigations into alleged police violence.
In the middle of the demonstrations, British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged his “unwavering” support to the ex-British colony and its citizens’ freedoms. In a series of broadcast interviews and posts on social media, Hunt repeated the message that the protesters should refrain from violence, but urged China to listen to the concerns of the Hong Kong people.
Beijing made a formal complaint about Hunt, accusing the Conservative leadership contender of “colonial-era delusions”. But Liu said he was “disappointed” by the UK’s response.
He said the countries’ relationship was based on mutual respect and suggested there would be further “problems” if the UK did not recognize China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, its “territorial integrity and principle of non-interference in domestic affairs”.
He said it was “hypocritical” of UK politicians to criticise the lack of democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong when, under British rule, there had been no elections nor right to protest. The recent unrest, he added, was “not about freedom but about breaking the law”.
Commenting on the above, BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Landale said the following:
The ambassador gave the British government both barrels at his press conference earlier.
What’s fascinating is there was no pretence, no attempt to gloss this over at all. This was visceral and system-wide. This is merely the British side of things, the same message is coming from the Beijing and Hong Kong too. There is definite push-back from the whole Chinese machine.
The British are so infuriated that they’ve summoned the ambassador almost immediately to give him a dressing down.
What was a war of words now risks becoming a substantial issue between the two countries.
Speaking on Wednesday, outgoing prime minister Theresa May said she had raised her concerns directly with Chinese leaders at the recent G20 meeting.
“It is vital that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms set down in the Sino-British joint declaration are respected,” she told MPs.
Successive UK governments have heralded a “golden era” in economic relations with China, with growing levels of trade and foreign investment.
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