Beijing's Foreign Ministry representative in Hong Kong has accused Britain's last governor of the city, Chris Patten, of a "reckless disregard for the truth" and "confusing black with white".
It follows Patten's remarks in an RTHK interview during a visit to the city last week in his capacity as chancellor of the University of Oxford.
When asked whether he thought Hong Kong people would ever rule their own city, Patten said: "Yes, I do, and I suspect sooner rather than later …even though democracy, or the advance of democracy, has been given a bad press in the last few years."
When asked how it has gone 30 years after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Patten said: “I think it’s gone pretty well, not perfectly. I’ve always taken the view, as you know, that we should have done rather more before we left Hong Kong to entrench political change and greater accountability.”
In the question-and-answer format on the website of the Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, Patten was quoted as saying "the city's democratic development has been suppressed in the last few years". The statement was only on the Chinese version of the site and not on the English version.
The office's statement concluded: "[The remarks] deserve our vigilance. We strongly oppose the interference of Hong Kong's internal affairs by foreign governments and the related people."
It added: "We advise the people concerned to pay attention to what they say and do."
Meanwhile, an adviser to Beijing on Hong Kong affairs, Professor Lau Siu-kai, said yesterday that support from at least half the members of the nominating committee should be a minimum requirement for chief executive candidates in 2017.
The suggestion flies in the face of pan-democrats' call for a low nominating threshold.
Lau, vice-president of the National Association of Study on Hong Kong and Macau, also addressed former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's proposal for 317 committee members to be directly elected.
He said the idea "could exert too much pressure" on the committee and thus be unacceptable to Beijing.
Chan also suggested candidates should be able to go forward after securing support from a tenth of the committee members. Lau said that if the nomination process was to reflect the committee's "collective will", as Basic Law Committee members have said it should, "I think the minimum requirement would be for the candidate to get more than half of the nominating committee's endorsement".
Yesterday saw 14 groups form an alliance to press for public nomination as an indispensable element in the 2017 election.