A diplomatic spat has broken between the U.K. and China over Hong Kong protests on Wednesday after the Chinese ambassador in London accused British government of “interfering” in the region, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.
British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) summoned Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to London, after he accused the U.K. of forgetting the territory is no longer a British colony and “colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians.”
The Chinese ambassador has been told his comments on the U.K.'s policy towards Hong Kong were "unacceptable and inaccurate", an FCO spokesman said.
Liu said he was "disappointed" by the U.K.'s response and the countries' relationship was based on mutual respect.
He suggested there would be further "problems" if the U.K. did not recognize China's sovereignty over Hong Kong, its "territorial integrity and principle of non-interference in domestic affairs".
Liu added that it was "hypocritical" of British politicians to criticize the lack of democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong when, under British rule, there had not been any elections.
Responding to Liu, British Foreign Secretary and one of the Conservative leadership contenders, Jeremy Hunt, said good relations between countries were based on "honoring the legally binding relationships between them", referring to a 1984 treaty between the two countries, which was inked while the territory was being handed over to Beijing rule.
Hong Kong witnessed massive anti-government protests early dawn on July 1, marking the anniversary of the region’s handover to China in 1997 after British colonial rule ended. Beijing looks after foreign and defense policies of the autonomous region.
The region has been witnessing protests for the last several weeks after Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed an amendment to the current extradition law, making it legal to send suspects detained in the city to mainland China on mere suspicion.
On Wednesday, outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May said she had raised her concerns directly with Chinese leaders at last week’s 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 British lawmakers in the House of Commons.
China had ceded Hong Kong island to British rule after the First Opium War in 1842 and leased the city, including 235 islands, to the U.K. for 99 years from 1 July 1898.
The city was handed over to China at the end of the lease in 1997.