Pan-democratic lawmakers have slammed Britain's twice-yearly report on Hong Kong as "weak" and "avoiding embarrassing Beijing" after it did not express a view on Beijing's white paper asserting its authority over the city.
"The UK government's position is clear: Hong Kong's unique constitutional framework has worked well," British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote in his 23-page report to the parliament on affairs in the former colony.
Hague's report came after the State Council's white paper, released on June 10, said the central government had "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city and that some Hongkongers were "confused and lopsided" in their understanding of the "one country, two systems" principle.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the report - the 35th examining implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that spelled out arrangements for Hong Kong's return to China - should have stood firm against Beijing's reinterpretation of the "one country, two systems" model.
"The UK government has its moral responsibility as a signatory to the joint declaration," Lau said. "It should be condemned."
Hague's report noted some commentators had suggested that the paper threatened the city's high degree of autonomy, but did not say if Britain agreed or disagreed with Beijing.
Instead, he said that both the central and Hong Kong governments "have been explicit that the paper did not mark a change in policy".
Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, of the Civic Party, said the report avoided explicitly commenting on the white paper as Britain did not want to embarrass Beijing. "The report lacks any judgment of the situation on the ground," he said.
"I believe the UK wants to avoid embarrassing Beijing as Premier Li Keqiang has just brought business deals of billions of pounds to Britain."
On the political reform debate, Hague urged Hongkongers to work for consensus. "It is welcome that a broad range of groups and individuals are involved. But it is clear that there is still some way to go for consensus to be reached," he said.
Separately, the central government's liaison office in Macau issued a statement that an unofficial referendum on political reform in Macau - planned for next month - would be "illegal" and without legal effect, according to a Radio Macau report.
Sulu Sou Ka-hou, of Macau Conscience, a co-organiser of the poll, said the accusation was "unreasonable".