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Clegg to meet China envoy on HK row

Nick Clegg is to summon the Chinese ambassador to make clear his "dismay and alarm" at their handling of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the population of the former colony were "perfectly entitled" to expect "free, fair, open elections".

"It is essential that the people of Hong Kong have a genuine choice of Chief Executive in 2017, through universal suffrage," Mr Clegg said.

"To that end I have asked for an urgent meeting with the Chinese Ambassador to reiterate our position and seek reassurances from the Chinese Government."

Amid warnings that the protests could escalate further tomorrow - which is a holiday in Hong Kong - Mr Clegg added: "Britain and China have solemn obligations to the people of Hong Kong to preserve their rights and freedoms, under the terms of the Joint Declaration signed in 1984 by prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

"We will not waver from that commitment, and I will do everything I can to defend the principle of one country, two systems."

Police have been using CS gas to try to disperse mass protests sparked by Beijing's insistence on screening election candidates for the post of chief executive on the basis of their patriotism to China.

But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond dismissed concerns that the gas is manufactured in Hampshire, saying the source is "immaterial" and it was a "legitimate export".

"CS gas is available from large numbers of sources around the world," he told the Daily Politics.

"To be frank, I think that is a rather immaterial point. They could buy CS gas from the US."

When China took control of Hong Kong in 1997, it agreed to a policy of "one country, two systems" which allowed it a high degree of control over its own affairs and kept in place liberties unseen on the mainland.

It also promised that the city's leader would eventually be chosen through universal suffrage and Hong Kong residents have long felt their island stood apart from mainland China thanks to those civil liberties and separate legal and financial systems.

David Cameron told Sky News's Sunrise he was "deeply concerned" by the situation.

"Of course I feel a deep obligation and I have expressed how concerned we are at what is happening in Hong Kong, because when we reached the agreement with China, there were details of that agreement about the importance of giving the Hong Kong people a democratic future within this two-state system," the Prime Minister said.

The highest-ranking civil servant under the last British governor of Hong Kong has also condemned the use of riot police against peaceful protesters and called on the world to sit up and take notice.

Anson Chan, sometimes described as Hong Kong's Iron Lady, said she could not believe her eyes when she saw tear gas was being fired at "defenceless" unarmed demonstrators outside government headquarters at the weekend.

They had been trying to reach a mass sit-in being held to demand Beijing grant genuine democratic reforms to the former British colony.

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