'Shameless' Hunt slammed for HK remarks
China yesterday denounced British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt as “shameless,” saying it had made a diplomatic complaint to London after he warned of consequences if China neglected commitments made when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
“To say that the freedom of Hong Kong residents is something Britain strived for is simply shameless,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing.
“I would like to ask Mr Hunt, during the British colonial era in Hong Kong, was there any democracy to speak of? Hong Kongers didn’t even have the right to protest.”
Only after Hong Kong’s return to China did its people get an “unprecedented” guarantee about democracy and freedom, he said.
Britain’s responsibilities to Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration have ended, and Hong Kong is purely an internal matter for China, Geng added, repeating earlier remarks.
The comments followed remarks by Hunt on Monday condemning violence on both sides and warning of consequences if China neglected commitments to allow freedom to Hong Kong.
Late on Monday, hundreds of rioters in Hong Kong had broken into the legislature.
China called the violence an “undisguised challenge” to the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled for 22 years.
Hunt, who is seeking to become Britain’s next prime minister, has made no attempt to correct his mistakes in talking about Hong Kong and has “continued to wag his tongue too freely” on the issue, Geng said.
Had Britain’s parliament been surrounded and attacked, would authorities have stood by and done nothing? he asked.
“Does he think that the British police’s handling of the August 2011 riots in London was repression?” Geng asked, referring to rioting in London that year.
“We hope that Britain, especially Mr Hunt, does not overestimate its abilities and wantonly interfere in Hong Kong matters. This is destined to be futile,” he said.
China has lodged “stern representations” with Britain both in Beijing and London about Hunt’s remarks, he added.
Confrontation and lawlessness in Hong Kong could damage its reputation as an international business hub and seriously hurt its economy, China’s state newspaper, the People’s Daily, said in an editorial.
“It will not only serve no purpose, but will also severely hinder economic and social development,” the paper said, denouncing what it called artificially created division and opposition.
Hong Kong, facing pressure from changes in the world economy and intensifying competition, could not “bear turbulence and internal friction,” it added.