China’s ambassador in London has been summoned for a dressing down from the UK’s top diplomat in an escalation of the dispute over Hong Kong.
The Foreign Office and Beijing have been involved in a spat following a call from Jeremy Hunt not to use the protests in Hong Kong as a “pretext for repression”.
China’s foreign ministry hit back and ambassador Liu Xiaoming lambasted the UK Government over its approach.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for Beijing’s ministry of foreign affairs, said Mr Hunt “appeared to be “basking in the faded glory of British colonialism and obsessed with lecturing others”.
Message to Chinese govt: good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honouring the legally binding agreements between them. That is the best way to preserve the great relationship between the UK and China
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 3, 2019
An FCO source said Mr Liu was being hauled in for a meeting on Wednesday with Foreign Office chief Sir Simon McDonald, the head of the diplomatic service, following the “unacceptable and inaccurate” comments from ministry of foreign affairs.
The turmoil in Hong Kong has seen protesters storm parliament and raise the old British colonial flag in the legislative chamber on the 22nd anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule on July 1.
Police used tear gas against anti-government activists.
The scenes follow unrest in the former colony over a controversial extradition law.
Mr Liu used a press conference to warn that Britain had damaged its relationship with China by interfering in Hong Kong following unrest in the region.
In a reference to Mr Hunt, he said it was “very disappointing” when senior officials “of his calibre” show support of “law-breaking” people.
He urged the Government to reflect on the “consequences of its words and deeds” regarding the former British colony.
He said: “I think the relationship in a way has been damaged by the interference of the British Government in Hong Kong because, as I said, the fundamental principles guiding our two countries is mutual respect, non-interference into internal affairs.
“If the British Government go further it will cause further damages, so that is why I’m calling the British Government to reflect the consequences of its words and deeds with regards to Hong Kong.”
On Tory leadership hopeful Mr Hunt, he said: “I think it is totally wrong for Jeremy Hunt to talk about the freedom – this is not a matter about the freedom, it’s a matter about breaking laws in Hong Kong.
“It’s very disappointing when the senior officials of his calibre show support of these law-breaking people.
“We all remember what Hong Kong was 22 years ago under British rule: there was no freedom, democracy, whatever.
“We all know that all governors were appointed by the British government, people had no right to elect its officials, no right to demonstrate certainly, and they did not even have a right to have an independent judicial power.”
In response, Mr Hunt tweeted: “Message to Chinese govt: good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honouring the legally binding agreements between them.
“That is the best way to preserve the great relationship between the UK and China.”