LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday that Britain should stand up for the rights of people in Hong Kong, a former British colony, as a Chinese official told international media to report "objectively" on the more than two weeks of protests in the territory.
Answering a question in Parliament about the unrest, Mr Cameron said it was important people in Hong Kong were able to enjoy freedoms and rights set out in an Anglo-Chinese agreement before Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
"It is important that democracy involves real choices," Mr Cameron said, stressing the importance Britain attached to the agreement. "It talks about rights and freedoms, including those of person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, and, indeed, of strike.
"These are important freedoms, jointly guaranteed through that joint declaration and it's that which, most of all, we should stand up for."
Mr Cameron was speaking after pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong clashed overnight with police. Footage of police beating a protester has gone viral on the Internet, sparking outrage from some lawmakers and the public.
Meanwhile, a Chinese official told foreign media in Hong Kong on Wednesday that China has seen interference in the city's pro-democracy protests from outside forces and called on international journalists to report "objectively".
"Since the occurrence of this event, from the statements and the rhetoric and the behaviour of the outside forces of political figures, of some parliamentarians and individual media, I think such a kind of interference certainly exists," the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
It was the first time since the demonstrations, which China and the Hong Kong government have called illegal, that an official from the central government has met foreign media in Hong Kong and made such a request.
"I've also noticed that media, most of them, have been trying to make balanced and objective reporting. I hope you will continue and sustain this momentum of making objective and fair reports."
The Chinese official said the measures taken by Hong Kong police were "necessary, reasonable and lawful", and made reference to the force New York police have used in dealing with Occupy Wall Street protests.
"I believe that fundamentally and basically the New York police authority also acted in line with their code of conduct and were making judgment on what happened at the scene in order to deal with the situation."
The official said the situation in Hong Kong was improving, and there was no need for the central government to deploy the People's Liberation Army in the city.
The official added that the central government "firmly supports" Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun Ying, after Hong Kong lawmakers asked the city's anti-graft agency to investigate Mr Leung over a US$6.4 million (S$8.1 million) payment he got from an Australian engineering company while he was in office.
"As for the specific case you have mentioned, the chief executive has made an explanation on that," the official said.