China’s foreign ministry lashed back Wednesday at criticism by Britain’s foreign secretary on the recent protests in Hong Kong, saying the region’s former ruling power had no right to weigh in on their affairs.
Hunt, who is in the running to be the next British prime minister, criticized Hong Kong authorities and said an outbreak of vandalism in the legislative chambers by protesters Monday night should not be used as a “pretext for repression.”
“[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,” said Hunt.
Geng said Hong Kong’s democracy was restricted by the U.K. prior to its handover to China in 1997, and the U.K. had no authority to comment on matters in the territory.
While British rule did not bestow Hong Kong with the right of democracy, it laid the groundwork for strong civic institutions, educational systems, health care, and a laissez-faire trading system dominated by businesses dedicated to keeping Hong Kong semi-autonomous. A 1984 agreement additionally stated that Hong Kong would be able to retain its Western-style economic, legal and political freedoms for 50 years.
“The U.K. considers itself as a guardian which is nothing but a delusion,” Geng told reporters at a briefing. “It is just shameless to say that Hong Kong’s freedoms are negotiated for them by the British side.”
Beijing has backed both Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her police forces in handling the recent protests, which have underlined doubts about the legitimacy of the “one country, two systems” formula that governs the semi-autonomous enclave.
Millions of citizens took to the streets throughout the past two months after Lam attempted to pass an extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be apprehended and extradited to mainland China for trial. Experts say the bill puts critics of China’s ruling Communist Party at risk of torture and unfair trials in the mainland and further chips away at Hong Kong’s judicial independence and civil liberties it was promised after its handover in 1997.
While Lam has shelved the bill, she has not agreed to abandon it as protestors demand. Many have also marched for Lam’s resignation, a request she has refused to address.
Fox News' Morgan Cheung and the Associated Press contributed to this report.