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China slams UK warnings about Hong Kong liberties

The Umbrella Movement protests brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for months in 2014 (AFP Photo/NICOLAS ASFOURI)

Beijing hit back Friday at Britain over a report condemning jailings of democracy activists and the disqualification of rebel lawmakers in Hong Kong.

"There is no room or right for the UK to intervene," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

"The attempt to show the UK's influence on Hong Kong affairs is in vain and can only lead to Chinese people's antipathy," he added, referring to Britain's former role as the city's colonial ruler.

The six-monthly parliamentary report on Hong Kong came days after the Chinese Communist Party decided to give President Xi Jinping a mandate to rule for life, intensifying fears that Hong Kong's freedoms will come under increasing threat.

Last Monday, the city's democracy camp failed to claw back all their lost seats in controversial by-elections as the city's pro-Beijing establishment further cements its grip.

Since being handed back to China by Britain in 1997, semi-autonomous Hong Kong has enjoyed rights unseen on the mainland, such as freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.

But there are increasing concerns those liberties are under threat.

Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson said Thursday the denial of entry to Hong Kong in October of British human rights activist Benedict Rogers had fuelled the UK's concern.

"Beijing's involvement in this case has strengthened our view that Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy is under increasing pressure," Johnson said in the report.

He also emphasised the importance of a free and fair judiciary after the jailings of leading pro-democracy activists on protest-related charges and the ousting from the legislature of four rebel lawmakers after an intervention from Beijing.

Johnson said that while the judiciary "remains in high esteem", it was vital the government was "seen to use the system fairly in all cases".

Hong Kong has come under increased pressure from Beijing since mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 brought parts of the city to a standstill.

The rallies failed to win political reform and since then activists have emerged calling for self-determination or full independence from China, infuriating Beijing.