China condemns US comments about Hong Kong

Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:58 PM ET

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs, criticizing it for comments calling for Hong Kong to speed up political reforms and allow direct elections.

"Affairs concerning Hong Kong ... are China's internal affairs leaving no room for foreign interference," the official Xinhua news agency late on Friday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying.

"The U.S. side has once and again made rash comments on Hong Kong affairs for quite a period of time, violating the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs."

The remarks came after a U.S. state department spokesman reiterated earlier comments from Washington calling for an early timetable for Hong Kong to adopt universal suffrage.

Hong Kong also put out its own response that appeared directed at the comments from Washington.

"We would not wish any foreign governments to give the impression that they were meddling in Hong Kong's affairs," the Hong Kong government said in a statement on Friday.

Earlier this week, pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong voted against a controversial election reform package, dealing a blow to the city's leader, Donald Tsang, who argued that the package was a major step toward democracy.

China regularly defends its right to determine affairs in Hong Kong and neighboring Macau, former colonies that have since been returned to the mainland but are run by semi-autonomous governments.

Free-wheeling Hong Kong, a major financial center, still cannot directly elect it leader or the entire legislative chamber and residents have staged large street protests demanding votes for all.