WASHINGTON/BEIJING -- The demonstrations in Hong Kong have cast a shadow on relations between the U.S. and China, with senior officials on both sides trading barbs before the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
U.S. President Barack Obama joined a Wednesday meeting between National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the White House, where he emphasized that the U.S. supports free elections in Hong Kong.
Secretary of State John Kerry had made a similar statement to Wang earlier that day. "We believe an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong's stability and prosperity," he told Wang.
The U.S. decision to address the issue so openly before the APEC summit in November may have resulted from growing tensions between the countries.
China has continued asserting itself in the South and East China seas. In August, a Chinese fighter jet came within six meters of a U.S. surveillance plane over the South China Sea. It has also distanced itself from U.S. efforts against the militant Islamic State group in the Middle East.
Wang, on the other hand, warned Kerry at their meeting that the protests in Hong Kong are an internal issue. "All countries should respect China's sovereignty and this is a basic principle of governing international relations," he said. He also stated that China will not allow "illegal acts that violate public order."
He also hinted at the possibility of dispersing the demonstrators, commenting on the Hong Kong government's ability to manage the current situation in a lawful manner.
A Thursday opinion piece in the government-backed People's Daily slammed the pro-democracy protests as an illegal activity that impose the political demands of a minority on the general public. Officials of the Chinese Communist Party are reportedly bristling at the mounting global support for the protests.