Tight-lipped China says Scotland vote a 'domestic affair'

BEIJING (AFP) - China's foreign ministry on Friday refused to be drawn on Scotland's rejection of independence in a historic referendum, even as state media warned of a "tide of secessionism" in the West.

"We have elaborated (our position) many times that the referendum in Scotland falls under the domestic affairs of the United Kingdom, and we have no comment on that," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.

China routinely rebukes others who comment on civil unrest within its borders as interfering in the Asian giant's own "domestic affairs".

Despite a surge in nationalist support in the final weeks of the campaign, Scotland's "No" secured 55.30 percent of the vote against 44.70 percent for the pro-independence "Yes" camp.

After a campaign that fired up separatist movements around the world, turnout was 84.6 percent, officials said - the highest ever for an election in Britain.

China's state-run media has in recent days issued dire warnings about the potential repercussions of a successful referendum.

In an editorial Friday, the Global Times newspaper, which often takes a nationalistic tone, opined that even a vote against independence in Scotland would represent "a tremor shaking the whole Western system".

"Liberal practices in the UK might have worked in the past, but now are facing immense uncertainty," it said in the piece, which ran under the headline "Tide of secessionism rising in the West".

In an editorial in its Monday edition, the newspaper warned that "if national self-determination has become a paramount principle overwhelming everything else, Europe will constantly break up into smaller and smaller fractions".

Some users of Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging platform, drew comparisons between Scotland's independence bid and China's own territorial issues in regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

"After this kind of experience, I hope you will stop stirring things up in Tibet and cease meeting with the Dalai Lama under the banner of human rights," one user wrote in response to a posting by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Others hailed the fact that citizens in Scotland were able to vote to decide their own fate - a right not afforded to those in China.

"When people can use the free vote to decide their country's future, they are living in a civilised, hopeful country," one wrote.