British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt vowed Thursday to maintain pressure on China over the treatment of protesters in Hong Kong, amid an escalating diplomatic row.
He repeated that there would be ‘consequences’ if Beijing breached commitments it made about rights in Hong Kong when Britain handed over control.
Speaking to BBC radio, Hunt declined to specify, but said ‘you keep your options open’.
‘What I wanted to do was to make the point clearly that this isn’t something that we would just gulp and move on — this would be a very serious issue for the UK,’ he said.
After Hunt first warned of ‘serious consequences’ on Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry hit back by accusing him of indulging in a colonial fantasy.
China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming gave a press conference on Wednesday demanding Britain stop interfering and warning it risked ‘further damaging’ bilateral ties.
The envoy was summoned to the foreign ministry in London later on Wednesday.
Hunt repeated on Thursday that he does not support the violent protesters who stormed Hong Kong’s parliament, but said they should not be dealt with by ‘repression’.
‘We see this situation as a very worrying situation. And we’re just asking very simply for that (Hong Kong return) agreement that we have with China from 1984 to be honoured,’ he said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing on Thursday that ‘some people on the British side are making irresponsible remarks on the Hong Kong issue’.
‘The Chinese side has resolutely responded to Mr Hunt’s mistaken statements about Hong Kong, and China’s response also applies to similar statements made by other officials of the British government,’ Geng added.
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