‘Internal affair’: Beijing warns foreign countries not to meddle in Hong Kong

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) delivers remarks as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) looks on, before their meeting at the State Department in Washington October 1, 2014. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
China’s foreign minister made it clear Beijing would not allow other countries to meddle into its ‘internal affairs’, responding in this way to US Secretary of State’s call for Beijing to grant Hong Kong the “highest possible degree of autonomy.”

The American and the Chinese heads of foreign offices exchanged their views on the massive protests in Hong Kong before their talks at the US State Department on Wednesday.

"Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “All countries should respect China's sovereignty. And this is also a basic principle governing international relations. I believe for any country, for any society, no one will allow those illegal acts that violate public order.”

Wang added he believed the current Hong Kong leadership was able to handle the large-scale sit-ins by itself.

The remark was made after US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Washington’s support for “universal suffrage” in Hong Kong, the main demand put forward by protesters in the Asian financial hub.

"We support universal suffrage in Hong Kong accordant with the Basic Law, and we believe in open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong's stability and prosperity," Kerry said.

Wang Yi received the same message from Barack Obama, whom he met later the same day, according to a White House statement about the meeting.

"The United States has consistently supported the open system that is essential to Hong Kong's stability and prosperity, universal suffrage, and the aspiration of the Hong Kong people," the statement reads.

Protesters in Hong Kong have been demanding election reform. They’re against the central government’s August decision to only allow Beijing-approved nominees run for the city’s leader post in the next election in 2017.

Buses covered with messages of support stop at a main street at Mongkok shopping district after thousands of protesters blocked the road in Hong Kong October 1, 2014. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Sunday’s massive crackdown on thousands of protesters, when police use of tear gas, pepper spray and baton charges did not lead to a dispersal of the crowds. What it did inspire is more anger with Hong Kong's current leader, Leung Chun-ying, with protesters starting to demand his resignation.

On Wednesday, a leader of the pro-reform protests warned the demonstrators were ready to occupy government buildings if the city’s chief didn’t step down by the end of Thursday.

An unnamed government source close to Leung says Hong Kong's chief executive is ready to wait for weeks for the protests to quiet down.

"Unless there's some chaotic situation, we won't send in riot police... We hope this doesn't happen," the source told Reuters. "We have to deal with it peacefully, even if it lasts weeks or months."

Beijing has backed the Hong Kong authorities and accused protesters of dragging the city into “chaos,” as can be grasped from a commentary published on Thursday in the People's Daily, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government.

It said that the rule of law must be safeguarded "in order to realize the healthy development of democracy and politics in Hong Kong," as cited by AP. "Handling affairs without following laws, Hong Kong society will be in chaos."

Tension flared in the streets of Hong Kong on Thursday after police started carrying boxes and barrels of ammunition to buildings surrounded by protesters.

Rally participants, angered by police’s actions, tried to block their way. The city’s authorities issued a statement, urging protesters to quickly disperse.

"The government and the police appeal to those who are gathering outside the police headquarters, CGO [central government offices] and CEO [Chief Executive's office] not to block the access there and to disperse peacefully as soon as possible," the statement said, as cited by AFP.

Students began their sit-ins on September 22. Within a few days they were supported by leaders of the broader Occupy Central civil movement, turning the protest into one of the city's largest rallies in decades.

The #OccupyCentral hashtag has eventually gone viral online with umbrellas, used by the rally participants to cover themselves from tear gas and pepper spray becoming symbols of the protest.