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Colonial 'fantasy': UK, China clash over Hong Kong

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on July 4, 2019 - Duration: 02:29s

Colonial 'fantasy': UK, China clash over Hong Kong

China told the UK it's living a "fantasy of British colonizers," while London warned Beijing of "serious consequences" if agreements over Hong Kong were not honored, escalating a diplomatic spat over the former British colony.

Michelle Hennessy reports.

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Colonial 'fantasy': UK, China clash over Hong Kong

As Hong Kong's protesters escalate the movement against a hugely unpopular extradition bill, a new frontline is opening between its former and current rulers.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE, BORIS JOHNSON, SAYING: "I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way." (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITAIN'S FOREIGN SECRETARY AND CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE, JEREMY HUNT, SAYING: "And there will be serious consequences if that internationally binding legal agreement were not to be honored." And on Thursday (July 4) Jeremy Hunt doubled down, adding that options on Hong Kong need to be kept open.

The comments by the two men left in the race to be Britain's next prime minister have clearly irked Beijing.

China's foreign ministry on Wednesday (July 3) even accused the British foreign secretary of being stuck in a colonial fantasy.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN, GENG SHUANG, SAYING: "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." Now China is warning about consequences of its own.

State media this week says Western agitators are emboldening violent behavior, a claim Hunt denied on Thursday.

But the state-run tabloid said the UK will pay for its actions.

Reuters' Ben Blanchard explains what that might look like: (SOUNDBITE) (English) BEN BLANCHARD, SAYING: "Possibly one of the areas they could do this would be what they did last year with the row over the South China Sea to postpone some of the agreements to postpone some of the talks that they were supposed to be happening.

Of course this is focused on financial services about granting greater inter-operability between the Shanghai and London stock exchanges and also Britain has been very keen to get Chinese financial services like banks for example to be based in London for off shore yuen trading and the like.

So if China is looking for somewhere to punish Britain this will probably be the most obvious place for them to do it though at the moment we haven't seen any signs of that." Hong Kong police have arrested more than two dozen people in connection with the protests - with further arrests looking likely.

It's become the most blatant public protest against Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

But his next steps are still unclear: (SOUNDBITE) (English) BEN BLANCHARD, SAYING: "Now for the Chinese who of course consider this to be an internal affair it is quite significant that President Xi himself has not come out himself yet and he may still do to say anything publicly about Hong Kong.

Whether or not Beijing does seek to take a more proactive role in restraining the situation in Hong Kong we don't yet know.

But absolutely Beijing does not want there to be turmoil and chaos in Hong Kong."

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