China rejects interference in Hong Kong, 'thoughtless' British remarks

HONG KONG Mon Sep 16, 2013 7:11am EDT

China's President Xi Jinping attends a signing ceremony with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China's President Xi Jinping attends a signing ceremony with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing May 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - China said on Monday it would not tolerate outside interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, rejecting as "thoughtless" a call from a British minister for people in the former British territory to have a genuine political choice.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of wide-ranging autonomy and an independent judiciary and media under a "one country, two systems" formula.

It is the freest city in China, but every year on the anniversary of the handover from Britain, thousands take to the streets demanding fully democratic elections amid mounting fears of increased meddling by Beijing's Communist Party leaders.

British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire, called in a weekend newspaper article for full universal suffrage, saying Hong Kong people should get a genuine choice in its first full election planned for 2017.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China was "extremely dissatisfied at and resolutely opposed to the thoughtless remarks in the article by the British minister about Hong Kong's political development".

"Hong Kong's political development is an internal matter for China. Hong Kong's internal affairs will not brook any interference by outside forces," Hong said.

Last Friday, Zhang Xiaoming, Beijing's representative in the city, ruled out open nominations for candidates for 2017, saying it was against the Basic Law, a mini-constitution that enshrines the city's freedoms and guides relations with the mainland.

Instead, Zhang said candidates could only be selected by a "broadly representative nominating committee".

His statement is expected to fuel a pro-democracy movement that is threatening to shut-down Hong Kong's central financial district next July unless the government introduces changes.

The election in 2017 will still be the most far-reaching version of democracy on Chinese soil. But analysts say Beijing's hardening stance suggest a continuing conservatism towards significant political reforms under new leader Xi Jinping.

(Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (7)
jbeech wrote:
I hate to say it but China is right about this. It’s just not the business of the British any longer. Thus, comments by politicians not directly involved seem counterproductive to positive relations. What is, is and what was, was and HK is definitely ‘was’. This is kind of like the US relationship with the Republic of Panama since 1999, where the former has pretty much been hands off and the latter has effected stunning social and infrastructure strides since the hand over.

Sep 16, 2013 7:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
snowshift wrote:
The only reason I supported Hong Kong being allowed back into China was the expectation that their system would cause a balance to the communist Chinese. The land itself is of trivial economic value, what the communist Chinese wanted was the economy — an economy built entirely outside of their regime. It’s unfortunate that some other nearby land wasn’t found for the people of Hong Kong who chose to leave — taking their economy with them.

China is rapidly turning into the world’s bully. With huge offensive armed services, rampant spying on other countries and on companies, and use of what is essentially slave labor, they are probably the greatest danger to world security in the next 50 years. We cannot let these bullies to continue, unopposed.

Sep 16, 2013 8:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Kailim wrote:
The British had never brought democracy to Hong Kong during its 150 years of administration there. The last governor, Chris Patten, was not democratically elected by Hong Kong people, but appointed by London .

Sep 16, 2013 10:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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