LONDON — Beijing has accused Britain of meddling in its affairs by supporting the pro-democracy protest movement in Hong Kong, fueling a growing diplomatic spat between China and the United Kingdom.
Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to London, told reporters on Thursday the U.K was still acting as Hong Kong’s colonial master.
“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,” he said.
Liu added: “I tell them: hands off Hong Kong and show respect. This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians.”
He was reacting to comments from Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, who has called on China to honor its commitment to the strained “one country, two systems” arrangement agreed when the U.K handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997.
On Wednesday, 48 hours after protesters had broken into and vandalized Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building, Hunt called on China to understand the root cause of the protests, which were sparked by opposition to controversial legislation that would allow China to extradite and try criminal suspects on the Chinese mainland.
A strident editorial column in the state-controlled China Daily newspaper on Thursday said: “The ideologues in Western governments never cease in their efforts to engineer unrest against governments that are not to their liking, even though their actions have caused misery and chaos in country after country in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
“Now they are trying the same trick in China.”
Western agitators, the article said, were emboldening the violent behavior seen in the legislative building.
Speaking to BBC radio on Thursday, Hunt — who is one of two men vying to be the U.K prime minister — clarified that he didn’t support such violence: “I said that I condemned, and we as the United Kingdom condemn, all violence and that people who supported the pro-democracy demonstrators would have been very dismayed by the scenes they saw.”
Police arrested 12 people on suspicion of breaking into the Legislative Council building, AP reported. The suspects are aged between 14 and 31 and are accused of crimes ranging from possessing offensive weapons to failing to carry ID documents.
Separately, eight people were also arrested Wednesday for revealing personal information relating to a police officer, including phone numbers and an address.
Although Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has shelved the extradition bill for the time being, protesters want it permanently axed and for a range of other democratic freedoms to be protected.