HONG KONG • Interference by foreign Parliaments in Hong Kong's affairs is deeply regrettable, the city's Chief Executive said yesterday, adding that an escalation of violence cannot solve social issues in the Asian financial hub.
The city's Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam was speaking after another weekend of sometimes violent clashes in the former British colony, with police firing tear gas in cat-and-mouse skirmishes with protesters who smashed windows and started fires in the streets.
"It's extremely inappropriate for foreign Parliaments to interfere in HKSAR internal affairs in any way, and (we) will not allow (the United States) to become a stakeholder in HKSAR matters," Mrs Lam said, referring to Hong Kong by its status as a special administrative region of China.
During a rally at the US consulate on Sunday, thousands of demonstrators, some waving the American flag, called for help in bringing democracy to Hong Kong.
The protesters called for the US Congress to pass legislation that would require Washington to make an annual assessment of whether Hong Kong was sufficiently autonomous from mainland China to retain its special US trade and economic benefits.
Britain gave back control of Hong Kong to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
But many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is steadily eroding that autonomy.
China denies meddling in the city and Chinese officials have accused foreign forces of trying to hurt Beijing by creating chaos in Hong Kong. They have also warned outsiders to keep out of what they call an internal affair.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying, asked about the protests in front of the US consulate and Mrs Lam's call for foreign Parliaments not to interfere, said Beijing was resolutely opposed to any foreign government interfering in China's affairs.
"We hope they can withdraw their black hands in Hong Kong as soon as possible," she said.
The initially peaceful protests have degenerated into encounters between baton-wielding riot police and activists, leading to scores of injuries and about 1,300 arrests.
The demonstrations have taken a toll on Hong Kong's economy, which is on the verge of its first recession in a decade. Hong Kong visitor arrivals plunged nearly 40 per cent last month from a year earlier as tourists steered clear of the city.
Mr Stephen Schwarz, head of sovereign ratings for the Asia-Pacific region at Fitch Ratings, said the agency's downgrade of Hong Kong last week reflected damage to the city's reputation as a place to do business.
"The downgrade reflects months of ongoing conflict environment which are testing the 'one country, two systems' framework and which have inflicted damage on the international perception of the quality and effectiveness of Hong Kong's governance and rule of law, as well as the stability of its business environment," Mr Schwarz said.
Meanwhile, China expressed anger yesterday after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, reiterating that no foreign country had a right to interfere in its internal affairs.
Mr Wong met Mr Maas on Monday in Berlin at an event hosted by the German newspaper BILD.
"China has already lodged stern representations with the German side," Ms Hua told a daily news briefing.