Washington has rejected Beijing's accusation that "outside forces" are interfering in Hong Kong's political development, saying meetings between diplomats and leaders in politics and society are "standard practice".
A spokesman for the Department of State said the US supported democracy in Hong Kong and that a high degree of autonomy and an open society were crucial to stability and prosperity.
The comments came a day after Beijing released a white paper on Hong Kong, stressing its "power of oversight" over the city's autonomy. The paper also said Beijing was sincere in "moving Hong Kong's democratic governance forward".
In comments widely seen as an attack on the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, it criticises "a very small number of people who act in collusion with outside forces to interfere with … 'one country, two systems'."
The US spokesman said its diplomats "regularly meet a wide range of government, business, political, academic, cultural and civil society leaders. These types of meetings are standard practice … and they are essential for building relationships, exchanging views, and opening lines of communication".
He said the 2017 chief executive election "will be greatly enhanced if the promise of universal suffrage is fulfilled and the election provides … a genuine choice".
But Beijing's supporters accused Washington of stirring up problems to stymie China's development. "The real intention of Washington is to keep China in trouble," said Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
Fellow Beijing loyalist Lau Nai-keung, a member of the Basic Law Committee, agreed.
"The white paper … tells other countries China's policy on Hong Kong and tells others Hong Kong affairs are none of their business," said Lau.
British consul general Caroline Wilson reiterated that London's commitment to its former colony was "as strong as ever".
Beijing has stepped up its rhetoric over "outside forces".
Last week, Zhou Nan , Beijing's chief negotiator during Sino-British talks on Hong Kong, warned that anti-China forces were using Occupy Central's civil disobedience plan to try to seize control. He warned that Beijing could declare martial law if Occupy sparked riots.