China on Monday lashed out at the United States for voicing alarm over the jailing of leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, calling Washington’s comments a “gross interference”.

Four prominent activists were last week jailed for their role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, which paralysed Hong Kong’s central business district for months and infuriated Beijing with its show of anger over the city’s leadership and direction.

Occupy nine sentencing
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP,

The US State Department on Friday said it was “disappointed” by the jailing and called on the city to respect residents’ rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

“We expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to these comments,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

“China urges the US to respect China’s sovereignty, respect the rule of law in Hong Kong, respect the judicial independence that the US claims is important, and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs in any form,” Geng said.

“It is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs and the internal affairs of the Hong Kong SAR (special administrative region).”

Geng Shuang
Spokesperson Geng Shuang. File photo: Ruptly, via YouTube screenshot.

The United States last week also voiced concern over Hong Kong’s plans for an extradition treaty with mainland China, under which residents of the international financial hub could become entangled in the communist nation’s opaque courts.

Geng defended the policy, calling it necessary to avoid the city turning into a “sanctuary” for fugitives.

Hong Kong enjoys rights unseen in mainland China, but activists have warned of a steady erosion of freedoms.

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