BEIJING (AP) — Beijing told the European Union on Tuesday to stay out of its internal affairs in response to criticism that China's investigation of five Hong Kong booksellers undermined the territory's autonomy and damaged its rule of law.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing that the matter is an internal affair and the EU should refrain from interfering in matters concerning the former British colony.
"Matters related to Hong Kong are purely China's internal affairs. No external forces should interfere," Hua said. "We urge the European side to watch their words and acts and to halt immediately the interference in Hong Kong affairs."
The EU on Monday released its annual report on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in which it said the investigation by Chinese authorities of five men linked to a Hong Kong publisher and bookshop had raised concerns about respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
The case is "the most serious challenge" to Hong Kong's political autonomy, the report said.
Chinese authorities have been investigating the booksellers for selling banned politically themed books to customers in mainland China.
Two of them, Gui Minhai and Lee Bo, may have been abducted and taken to mainland China for investigation, raising concerns that Chinese agents might have overstepped in law enforcement.
Both Gui and Lee, however, have said they returned to mainland China voluntarily, although there are suspicions they might have made such statements under coercion.