China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom urged Britain to stay out of Chinese affairs and slammed the government’s rhetorical support for recent protests in Hong Kong that escalated into violent clashes with police.
Britain was on the “wrong side” of the issue, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said on Wednesday, insisting that Hong Kong be left to manage its own affairs, including the fate of a controversial extradition bill that was recently suspended in parliament.
“I tell [British officials]: hands off Hong Kong and show respect,” Liu told reporters in English.
“This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians” who “regard Hong Kong as still under British rule.
Asked about former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s rhetorical support for the protesters, Liu stressed that non-interference is a key principle of Chinese-British relations.
“As long as these principles are violated, there will be a problem in the relationship,” Liu said.
Johnson is the frontrunner in the Conservative Party contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, set to conclude later this month.
The British government has requested a meeting with Liu after his remarks, which the Foreign Office deemed “unacceptable,” Reuters reports.
Demonstrations to mark the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule turned violent on Monday when a group of protesters stormed and briefly occupied the city’s parliament chamber. Thirteen have been arrested for participation in the incident, according to Hong Kong police.
The unrest follows months of protests over a contentious bill that would allow Beijing to extradite wanted persons to the mainland, which has also prompted calls for the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, to resign.
Hong Kong was under British colonial rule for over 150 years before officially returning to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. It is currently administered under a “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement, which allows the territory some autonomy.
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