LONDON – Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday Britain should stand up for the rights of people in Hong Kong, a former British colony, after more than two weeks of protests over Chinese restrictions on how the island chooses its next leader in 2017.
Answering a question in parliament about the unrest, 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, ” 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.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about Cameron’s comments, said Hong Kong matters were an internal affair.
“Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. No foreign government or individual has the right to gesticulate on this issue, ” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
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.
(Reporting by William James; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Robert Birsel)