The United States should respect its relationship with China and stop interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday, using stronger language than usual.
Its outburst came in response to a meeting between two veteran pan-democrats and high-ranking US officials last week in which the city's democratic reforms were discussed.
"What has been done by the US side is completely wrong," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said.
"China hereby expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition. We urge the US to bear in mind the overall interests of China-US relations, earnestly respect China's position and concerns and stop any form of interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong."
Hong said the development of Hong Kong's political system fell within the country's domestic affairs and that "no foreign forces are allowed to interfere".
Anson Chan Fang On-sang, the former chief secretary and the convenor of pro-democracy group Hong Kong 2020, and Martin Lee Chu-ming, founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, met Vice-President Joe Biden on Friday as part of a two-week visit to the US and Canada.
Biden spoke of the States' support for democracy in Hong Kong and for the city's high degree of autonomy under the one country, two systems framework. Lee asked Congress to bring back the US-Hong Kong Policy Act.
The Act, passed in 1992, required the US Secretary of State to report to Congress on Hong Kong developments, including its autonomy, until 2007.
The spat comes as electoral reform proposals made by a group of 18 academics received a positive welcome from two high-ranking government officials.
Under the April 2 proposal, a candidate who receives signatures of support from 2 per cent of registered voters - about 70,000 people - will have his name presented to the 1,200-member nominating committee.
Such candidates must secure support from an eighth of the committee before being put to the citywide ballot.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-Keung said yesterday he was glad that "in the 18 scholars' proposal, they did not insist on public nomination, and I think at least it is easier for a consensus to be reached.
"There's been much discussion on public nomination, but I can see the society is starting to accept that there are other ways to discuss political reform."
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was also upbeat. "The Basic Law requires the final nomination right to be left exclusively with the nominating committee," Lam said.
"From this perspective, the scholars' plan does not deviate from that legal requirement.
"I hope the 18 scholars can explain further how their proposal is in line with other reform principles, including balanced participation and achieving a widely representative committee."
Lam and her reform team - Yuen and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen - are to meet scholars next week, including some from the group of 18.