The US yesterday refused to back down in its support for democracy in Hong Kong after Beijing accused Washington’s envoy to the territory of meddling in China’s internal affairs.
Song Zhe (宋哲), China’s top envoy in Hong Kong, rebuked newly appointed US Consul General Clifford Hart, who said when he was taking office last month that he looked forward to “progress towards genuine universal suffrage.”
Ties between the US and China are strained after Washington accused Hong Kong’s government of acting in bad faith over intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and warned of repercussions.
“Commissioner Song emphasized that the political system of Hong Kong is its internal affairs. Foreign country governments and officials should not interfere,” a statement by Song’s office said on Wednesday.
Song said he hoped the US would “refuse to use any excuses to conduct undue activities and refuse to do anything that would hurt Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
However, a spokesman for the US consulate said yesterday: “The United States’ longstanding policy toward Hong Kong is unchanged. We support Hong Kong’s autonomy under ‘one country, two systems’ and look forward to Hong Kong’s continued progress toward genuine universal suffrage.”
Such a transition was in keeping with “the aspirations of the Hong Kong people,” the spokesman said.
China has promised the former British colony it will see a transition to universal suffrage by 2017, though critics say little or no progress has been made on the prickly issue as the deadline draws closer.
Sonny Lo, a political analyst, said Song’s remarks — the third such warning to the US in recent months — were consistent with increasing Chinese concerns over foreign influence in its domestic politics.
“Hong Kong’s democratic movement has a momentum of its own, independent of US influence,” Lo said.
With Hong Kong seeing regular pro-democracy protests, “Beijing seems to be concerned with any possible foreign push that may trigger a larger-scale movement,” he added.