Britain has summoned Beijing’s ambassador for a dressing down in a rapidly escalating diplomatic feud over protests in Hong Kong as China told Britain to keep its “hands off” the city and “show respect”.

Liu Xiaoming was informed “that the comments made on UK policy towards Hong Kong by the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson were unacceptable and inaccurate,” a UK Foreign Office spokesman told AFP.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had told a regular briefing in Beijing:

“He seems to be fantasising in the faded glory of British colonialism and in the bad habit of gesticulating while looking down on other countries’ affairs.”

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“I need to re-emphasise that Hong Kong has now returned to its motherland.” Shuang’s remasks was a response to the reaction of British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Hunt, one of two candidates to become Britain’s next prime minister on Wednesday took the global lead in condemning China’s handling of its “special administrative region”.

Hunt called on Beijing not to use the protests as a “pretext for repressions” and warned of “serious consequences” if China breaches the commitments it made to London decades ago under the terms of the handover.

His comments provoked a cascade of condemnations from China that began with its foreign ministry in Beijing and continued with its embassy in London. The diplomatic offensive raged on in London, where Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming hastily convened a press conference.  “I tell them: hands off Hong Kong and show respect,” Liu said, according to the state-owned CGTN news site.

“This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians.” He spoke moments before being summoned by the Foreign Office for a private meeting with UK diplomatic service chief Simon McDonald.