China state media have denounced an unofficial democracy referendum being held in Hong Kong that has drawn more than 700,000 voters so far, saying it is "tinged with mincing ludicrousness."
"It would be ridiculous to determine the direction of Hong Kong's political reform with this informal referendum," the editorial read, adding that the territory "can't launch any referendum without the authority of the central government."
"Hong Kong's opposition groups will find their efforts to convince most of the electorate to be in vain," the newspaper said.
"Even if they can deceive more than half of Hongkongers, Beijing will never compromise on sovereignty-related issues. The simplest reason is that the Basic Law reflects the will of the whole nation as well, and therefore more than 1.3 billion people have the right to speak on Hong Kong's political reform," it said.
The turnout for the referendum, which gave voters the opportunity to vote in person or online, has exceeded organizers' expectations and the deadline was extended from June 22 to June 29. The online element to the vote was called "a joke" by the editorial writers, who suggested that many votes might be "fabricated."
As we reported last week, a 100,000-strong march in Hong Kong commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing prompted a backlash, with the Chinese leadership issuing a policy paper reasserting its control over the special administrative region, or SAR.
Hong Kong — a former British colony whose freedom was supposed to be guaranteed under the handover agreement between London and Beijing in 1997 — has nonetheless felt the increasingly heavier hand of Chinese rule.
The Japan Times, quoting a translation of the Chinese-language version of the editorial, reports that it was more strident in its denunciations.
"The Chinese version of the editorial [reminded] the [referendum] organizers that "the state defeated the Iron Lady's administration and took back Hong Kong," referring to negotiations between then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and China's paramount leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, in the early 1980s.
" 'The opposition in Hong Kong should not have the delusion that they could, by organizing a street farce, achieve what London at the time was not able to do despite making every effort possible,' it said."
In a second Global Times editorial in English, Beijing accuses "radical opposition groups" in Hong Kong of "sowing contrary sentiments and even hatred."
"They should refrain from indiscretion and adopt a realistic attitude instead of fancying themselves as just and righteous people," it concluded.