China warns US off Hong Kong

HONG KONG – China has listed Hong Kong as one of its "core interests" in an apparent warning to Washington in the aftermath of last year’s pro-democracy protests, local media reported Thursday.

Citing China’s PLA Daily, the newspaper of the People's Liberation Army, the South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong was officially defined as a "core interest" in a meeting this week between top Chinese and U.S. military officers.

PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Sun Jianguo and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers met in Beijing on Tuesday, the report said.

When listing Beijing's priorities, Sun mentioned Hong Kong second after Taiwan but before the East and South China Seas and cyber security, the Daily said.

"The U.S. should earnestly respect China's core interests and key concerns," Sun was quoted as saying.

Sun's statement follows repeated claims by mainland Chinese media and Hong Kong officials that "foreign forces" had interfered during the 79-day protest that blocked major roads in the territory.

In November, U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S. had not been involved in the protests but called for transparent and fair elections in the former British colony.

In 2011, Beijing defined its core interests as national sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, national unity, social and political stability and sustainable socio-economic development.

Renmin University international relations specialist Jin Canrong told the Post that Sun's remarks indicated China did not trust the U.S. and believed it was involved in the protests.

Retired PLA Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu was quoted as saying that Beijing was sending a message to the U.S. administration.

"Sun is telling the U.S. to calm down and not to have any illusions about using Hong Kong to stir things up," Xu told the Post.

Peking University international relations professor Jia Qingguo said: "Any attempt to demand independence is an act to split the nation. Beijing will not allow it and is asking the U.S. not to be involved."

But Hong Kong legislator Albert Ho said the more Beijing tried to exert control on Hong Kong, the more alienated residents would become.

Under the agreement that paved the way for Beijing to take over Hong Kong from London in 1997, Hongkongers enjoy greater civil liberties than mainland Chinese.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency