China on Wednesday said it lodged an official protest with London after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Beijing of serious consequences if it breaches the Hong Kong handover agreement.
He seems to be fantasising in the faded glory of British colonialism and in the bad habit of gesticulating while looking down on other countries affairs, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing.
Mr Hunt had said that Hong Kong authorities should not use an outbreak of vandalism in the legislative chambers by protesters on Monday night as a pretext for repression.
He said the authorities need to understand the root causes of what happened, which is a deep-seated concern by people in Hong Kong that their basic freedoms are under attack.
Mr Geng said Britain restricted Hong Kong’s democracy prior to the 1997 handover to Chinese rule and had no right to comment.
At least a million Hong Kong residents have taken part in recent protests that have paralysed the city, with key thoroughfares blocked and police clamping down with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The demonstrations were sparked by an extradition bill that would allow China to try Hong Kong citizens on the mainland, a move that many see as the latest step in a relentless march towards control from Beijing.
The suspension but not the scrapping of the bill by Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, has failed to quench anger.
On Monday, the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong handover, hundreds of protesters broke into the city’s legislature and flooded into the chamber, daubing anti-Chinese graffiti on the walls and smashing up walls, doors and paintings. At one point they placed Hong Kong’s old colonial banner, featuring the Union Jack, on top of the plaque bearing its current flag. They were ultimately forced out by riot police.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a one country, two systems formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary. Beijing denies interfering in the city’s affairs.
On Wednesday, China’s top newspaper warned that outbreaks of lawlessness could damage Hong Kong’s reputation and seriously hurt its economy.
Meanwhile a newspaper affiliated to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), ran photos of a week-old military drill in Hong Kong, a move analysts described as a warning to Beijing’s critics.
The photos showed Chinese soldiers pointing automatic rifles on a boat, a PLA helicopter, and warships.
The PLA has maintained a garrison in Hong Kong since the handover to Beijing, but its troops generally keep a low profile and are rarely seen in uniform in public.
On Saturday, however, the Chinese military received official ownership of a piece of prime Hong Kong waterfront land, which will allow its warships to berth in the city’s famed Victoria Harbour in future.