China has warned the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to “beware of their eyes being poked and blinded” after expressing concerns about the expulsion of four pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong.
The foreign ministers of Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand had criticised a resolution adopted by China’s parliament that allows Hong Kong’s executive to expel lawmakers who have supported the territory’s pro-democracy movement.
The subsequent disqualification of four opposition members from its legislature appears to be “part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices”, the intelligence-sharing group said.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hit back at the alliance in a press conference on Friday morning (Australian time).
He was quoted by AAP as saying “no matter if they have five eyes or 10 eyes, if they dare to harm China’s sovereignty, security and development interests they should beware of their eyes being poked and blinded”.
According to another translation by the BBC, Mr Zhao said the countries “should be careful or their eyes will be plucked out”.
The forced removal of four politicians last week sparked the mass resignation of the entirety of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition.
In a statement, the five foreign ministers said the policy which served to disqualify certain legislators had constituted a “clear breach” of the Sino-British pact, which was meant to guarantee Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and the right to freedom of speech under Chinese rule.
The Five Eyes had called on China to “stop undermining the rights of the people of Hong Kong to elect their representatives in keeping with the Joint Declaration and Basic Law”.
Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people, was promised autonomy over local affairs for 50 years after its return to China in 1997.
Ms Zhao said Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China and that public officials must “be loyal to the motherland”.
He said it is “only right and proper” to allow only patriots to govern Hong Kong.
China’s official mouthpiece Global Times had quoted Chinese research fellow Fan Peng as saying “some Western countries have been used to taking a stand on every issue related to Hong Kong, using it to attack China’s political system”.
“They are only using Hong Kong as a counterweight to China in international issues, and never do anything for the interests of Hong Kong citizens,” he continued.
The four disqualified MPs were initially barred from running for re-election because of their calls for foreign governments to impose sanctions on China and Hong Kong.
They had remained in office because elections were postponed for one year.