Hong Kong democrats hail `honourable` UK MPs after report

Hong Kong`s democrat lawmakers called British MPs "honourable" Friday for highlighting concern over the erosion of freedoms by Beijing in a new report, but China said the UK had "no right to interfere". 

Hong Kong: Hong Kong`s democrat lawmakers called British MPs "honourable" Friday for highlighting concern over the erosion of freedoms by Beijing in a new report, but China said the UK had "no right to interfere". 

China announced in August last year that candidates running for Hong Kong chief executive in 2017 -- the first ever public vote for leader -- would be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee. 

That decision sparked more than two months of mass pro-democracy rallies which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill.

A House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report released late Thursday said the electoral proposals did not offer a "genuine choice" to the people of Hong Kong.

The committee`s report also said the city could face a "crisis of governance" unless tensions over how it is ruled are resolved.

"It`s the first honourable thing that the British have done in this Hong Kong fight for democracy," said Alan Leong of Hong Kong`s Civic Party.

Lawmaker Albert Ho of the Democratic Party also welcomed the report.

"I can`t agree more with what they have said, they have certainly spoken out the truth," Ho told AFP.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Hong Kong`s return to China under the semi-autonomous "one country, two systems" deal had been "a great success".

"Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Its affairs are China`s domestic affairs. The UK has no right to interfere," she said at a briefing Friday.

China`s official state news agency Xinhua also attacked the report as "absurd".

"The wording of the report shows that these British MPs are hostile to Hong Kong`s development and are still labouring under a colonial mindset," its commentary said Friday.

British MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee were barred from entering Hong Kong by China in December to research the report.Britain handed the city over to China in 1997 under a joint declaration signed in 1984 which guaranteed political, social and economic freedoms not enjoyed on the Chinese mainland.

The UK government has been criticised by some campaigners for failing to safeguard those rights and heed fears over increased Chinese influence. 

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that there was still an opportunity for "a meaningful step forward for democracy", despite Beijing`s restrictions, in a bi-annual report on the former colony published last week.

Civic Party legislator Claudia Mo said that she hoped the new Foreign Affairs Committee report would now "exert some pressure on the existing British administration on the Hong Kong question".

Hong Kong authorities are pushing for the public vote to go ahead in 2017 but say it must adhere to Beijing`s framework.

"It would be a shame not to have universal suffrage as early as we can," Hong Kong`s leader Leung Chun-ying told reporters Friday in Beijing -- where he is attending a meeting of the National People`s Congress, China`s official parliament.

A second round of public consultation on the vote is due to end Saturday and a proposal for how the 2017 election will be carried out is due to be put before the city`s legislature in the coming months.

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