British parliamentary probe into H.K.'s progress irks Beijing: BBC

The Foreign Affairs Committee of China's legislature has sent a warning letter to its British counterpart over an inquiry launched into the political development of Hong Kong, the former British colony handed over to Chinese rule under a joint treaty in 1997, according to a BBC report Tuesday.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of Britain's House of Commons announced its intention to investigate in July, to consider progress made by Hong Kong in the 30 years since its handover was agreed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the report said.

In the letter, China's National People's Congress foreign affairs committee described the inquiry as a "highly inappropriate act which constitutes interference in China's internal affairs."

It said the inquiry has sent a wrong political signal to the world and disrupted Hong Kong's political reform, while China will "brook no interference" from external forces.

The NPC letter also warned the British members of parliament to "act with caution on the issue of Hong Kong, bear in mind the larger picture of China-UK relations and Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, stop interfering in Hong Kong's affairs and cancel the inquiry on UK-Hong Kong relations."

As the cosignatory of the joint declaration, the report said, Britain has an ongoing interest in what is happening in Hong Kong.

Richard Ottaway, chairman of the British committee, was quoted in the report as saying that the inquiry was not aimed at irritating China.

"It may well be that my committee will decide that actually the Chinese are behaving perfectly reasonably," he said. However, he added that the proposed limited number of candidates in Hong Kong's election "did appear to be a prima facie case that China had breached the undertakings it gave in the 1984 handover agreement."

Following a meeting with former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Anson Chan and political activist Martin Lee in July, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged that if China breached the 1984 treaty, "Britain would mobilize the international community and pursue every legal and other avenue available."

On Sunday, the NPC's Standing Committee, Beijing's core legislative body, decided to allow only candidates favored by China to run for Hong Kong's top job, sparking a string of demonstrations by pro-democracy groups in the territory.

In a press briefing Tuesday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated China's stance that, being its special administrative region, Hong Kong's political reform matters are China's internal affairs not to be interfered with by foreign powers.

"Communications held between China and Britain to express our solemn position are entirely appropriate and reasonable," Qin said.