LONDON - British lawmakers will not be allowed to enter Hong Kong as part of an inquiry into Britain's relations with its former colony and progress towards democracy there, the head of a parliamentary committee said on Sunday.
"I have been informed by the Chinese Embassy that if we attempt to travel to Hong Kong we will be refused entry," foreign affairs select committee chairman Richard Ottaway said in a statement. "We are a committee of elected Members of Parliament from a democratic nation who wish to scrutinise British diplomatic work in Hong Kong. The Chinese Government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in refusing us access to do our job."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that as Beijing had responsibility for Hong Kong's foreign affairs it had every right to decide who it let into the territory.
"I have noticed that someone on the British parliament's foreign affairs select committee said that China's banning of them entering Hong Kong was overtly confrontational," she told a daily news briefing in Beijing on Monday.
"China said many times to Britain it resolutely opposed the so-called delegation of the British parliament's foreign affairs committee going to Hong Kong for a so-called investigation and asked they cancel the visit," Hua added. "If certain British MPs are bent on doing this, that's what is meant by overt confrontation and this is not beneficial for Sino-British ties."
The committee is looking at Britain's relations with Hong Kong 30 years after it agreed terms for handing the city over to China, and at how those terms are being implemented.
News that the committee cannot visit comes as thousands of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have clashed with police over the way the city's next leaders will be elected in 2017.
Ottaway called for an emergency debate in parliament to discuss the matter.
Earlier this year, China asked parliament to shelve the inquiry, saying it would not allow foreign forces to intervene in its internal affairs.