China has told the United States to stay out of Hong Kong's affairs, rejecting Washington's call for Beijing to quickly set up a timetable for full democracy in the Chinese territory.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the United States' statements about Hong Kong are unwarranted and inappropriate intrusions in China's internal affairs.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said Monday the United States believes that "the people of Hong Kong are ready for democracy."
The spokesman added that "the sooner that a timetable for achieving universal suffrage [in Hong Kong] is achieved, the better."
The U.S. comments followed a rally and march by tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong on Sunday calling for full democracy.
Beijing's chief executive in the former British colony, Donald Tsang, has acknowledged the protesters' demands. He says the central government is moving toward full democracy in an orderly fashion, and that political reforms must precede a timetable for universal suffrage.
Some protesters say the reforms are too weak. A timetable for reaching a fully democratic system has been a contentious issue since Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, with the status of a Special Autonomous Region.
Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.