China denounces British parliament's inquiry into Hong Kong affairs

SHANGHAI - China denounced the launch of a British parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of Hong Kong that has begun 30 years after the two countries agreed on the return of the financial hub to Beijing.

Earlier this week, British parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee opened an inquiry into how British foreign ministry monitors the implementation of a 1984 agreement between Beijing and London that paved the way for the 1997 return of the British colony to China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged Britain to stop interfering in China's domestic affairs. "As Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, affairs of Hong Kong are purely China's domestic affairs," Hong said in a statement published on the ministry's website late on Friday. "China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes Britain's practice, and has lodged solemn representations," he added.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under the 1984 agreement that provided for Hong Kong to keep its wide-ranging freedoms and autonomy under the "one country, two systems" model. The city had never been fully democratic during 150 years of British colonial rule.

Chinese officials have repeatedly bristled at British comments on Hong Kong's democratic development, and a recent White Paper issued by China's cabinet warned against "foreign forces" meddling in the city.

A British government report on Hong Kong, presented by then-Foreign Secretary William Hague to the British parliament earlier this month, expressed "serious concerns" about press freedom and self-censorship in its former colony and about reports that leading British banks had pulled advertising from a local pro-democracy newspaper.