China has sent a chilling warning to the Five Eyes, including New Zealand, after the group expressed "serious concern" at the Middle Kingdom's Hong Kong policy.
The Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance - composed of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States - released a joint statement on Thursday critical of Beijing for imposing new rules allowing the disqualification of elected lawmakers in Hong Kong.
"China's action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. It breaches both China’s commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a 'high degree of autonomy', and the right to freedom of speech," the statement says.
"The disqualification rules appear part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices following the postponement of September’s Legislative Council elections, the imposition of charges against a number of elected legislators, and actions to undermine the freedom of Hong Kong’s vibrant media."
It's the latest move by China to crack down on the independence movement in Hong Kong after it introduced a new national security law in July that gave Beijing greater influence in the financial hub's judicial system.
Pro-democracy legislators announced they were resigning last week after four colleagues were disqualified for calling for foreign governments to impose sanctions on China.
China has now hit back at the Five Eyes, including with a warning to "be careful".
"The Chinese people will not provoke troubles, but we never flinch when trouble comes our way. No matter how many eyes they have, five or ten or whatever, should anyone dare to undermine China's sovereignty, security and development interests, be careful not to get poked in the eye," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday morning.
"We deplore and firmly oppose relevant country's finger-pointing over China's Hong Kong affairs, which is a flagrant violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations."
Zhao said the new rule was an "inherent requirement of upholding and improving the system of 'one country, two systems' and a necessary step to maintain the rule of law and constitutional order in the HKSAR. This is legal, reasonable and unchallengeable".
He then goes on to stress that Hong Kong is part of China and "will never allow anyone" who supports the independence movement to "manage or govern Hong Kong".
"It is only natural that those who love the country and Hong Kong should govern Hong Kong, while those anti-China disruptors who stir up troubles in Hong Kong should be knocked out."
In July, New Zealand suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong in light of the contentious national security law being passed. China responded by suspending the city's deal with Aotearoa and accusing New Zealand of "gross interference".
Speaking to Newshub Nation, then-Foreign Affairs minister Winston Peters called on China to honour the 'one country, two systems' guarantee set out in 1997 when Hong Kong was transferred to the Middle Kingdom.
"To say it's an interference from New Zealand or other countries is really a massive misuse of language. It's nothing of the sort. What we're saying is, 'We trusted you in your commitment of 1997. Please honour it, and if you do, we will review our position.'"