Chris Patten may have run Hong Kong for its last five years as a British colony, but to Beijing he is a foreigner with no right to comment on the city's political affairs.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made this clear yesterday in the latest of a series of stern rebukes to overseas figures seen to have meddled in the electoral reform process.
"We are strongly opposed to foreigners making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong's political reform," the ministry spokesman in Hong Kong said.
The ministry was responding to remarks by Patten in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which said he wished Britain had gone further in introducing democracy before relinquishing control in 1997.
It reiterated that Hong Kong's political development was its own - and China's - internal affair, and that the "one country, two systems" and "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" principles had been successfully implemented since the handover.
In the interview, Patten - whose own political reforms were reversed after the handover - said: "The only thing [Hong Kong] doesn't have is the right to elect its own government … anybody who tries to resist that is, I think, spitting in the wind."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei slammed British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire in September for emphasising the importance of local voters having genuine choice "on the road to democratisation".
"The British foreign minister published an article in [Hong Kong] media, publicly making irresponsible remarks … The Chinese government is strongly displeased and staunchly opposed to it," Hong said.
In August, US consul general Clifford Hart was told by Ministry of Foreign Affairs commissioner in Hong Kong Song Zhe to steer clear of the city's political debate, after he said he looked forward to Hongkongers' move towards "genuine democratic suffrage".