WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US and China openly clashed Wednesday over the pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong, with Beijing warning Washington to back off and saying it would not tolerate “illegal acts.”
President Barack Obama told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that the United States “was following developments in Hong Kong closely” when he dropped in on a meeting between Wang and national security advisor Susan Rice, the White House said.
Obama also “expressed their hope that differences between Hong Kong authorities and protesters will be addressed peacefully.”
But only hours earlier, Wang upbraided his US counterpart John Kerry, telling him the demonstrations were none of America’s business.
“The Chinese government has very firmly and clearly stated its position. Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs,” Wang said, with Kerry standing next to him at the State Department.
“All countries should respect China’s sovereignty and this is a basic principle of governing international relations,” Wang said.
“I believe for any country, for any society, no one would allow those illegal acts that violate public order. That’s the situation in the United States and that’s the same situation in Hong Kong.”
Washington has always walked a delicate tightrope in its relations with China, eager to improve trade and economic ties with the world’s second largest economy while also pressing for greater human rights.