Predictably, following British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire's comments about democratic development in Hong Kong, the hackles of Beijing and many in the SAR were raised. Reactions ranged from the central government's representatives in the city telling Britain to mind its own business to pro-Beijing local newspapers warning about British spies in our midst - a fifth column that has been nurtured and kept active for decades.

One of the first spies recorded in Chinese history was a woman military commander called Nü Ai, who lived during the Xia dynasty (circa 2070-1600BC). The Chinese nation then was probably a collection of tribes headed by a hereditary king. Nü served under Shao Kang, the rightful ruler of Xia, who was forced to live in exile. When Shao finally rallied enough strength, he mounted a military campaign against Han Zhuo, the usurper who had forced Shao's father, King Xiang, to take his own life. Before he attacked, Shao sent Nü to gather information about the enemy. In disguise, Nü infiltrated Han's territory, where she observed the living conditions of the people and covertly collected information that would be useful to Shao's cause. Armed with Nü's valuable intelligence, Shao managed to decimate Han's forces and restore himself as king.