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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rival Moscow Diplomats Spin Hong Kong Transfer

Chinese and British diplomats staged dueling press conferences Friday in Moscow, each putting their own spin on the transfer of Hong Kong from colonial to communist rule July 1.

"Since the time China said it would restore sovereignty over Hong Kong, the Hong Kong economy has boomed," said Chinese charge d'affaires Guan Hengguang, reading from a prepared text.

"The masses of Hong Kong are opening their hearts to the motherland, supporting the positions of the central people's government, and are brimming with confidence about the future of Hong Kong."

In the hallway outside the conference room, a big-screen television showed street interviews with smiling, sharply dressed Hong Kong residents expressing gratitude to the Chinese Communist Party for rescuing the colony from more than a century of colonialist British rule.

Across town in the British Embassy later that afternoon, a more somber Sir Andrew Wood, the British ambassador, ducked "hypothetical questions" about possible Chinese moves to curb human rights once Beijing takes back the colony. He said only that Britain would monitor the situation.

He preferred to draw a parallel between the end of British imperialism and Russia's acceptance of the breakup of the Soviet Union. "We are in the process of stepping back from imperialism, much like Russia," said Wood, speaking in Russian.

Russian reaction to the Hong Kong handover has been mixed. The Kremlin, which seeks stronger ties with China, is sending Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov to take part in the transition ceremonies July 1.

"Moscow believes that this event may be an example of a civilized, nonconfrontational solution of a problem which touches the interests of many states," a Foreign Ministry spokesman told a news briefing Thursday.

Russian nationalists have largely taken China's side over Hong Kong, defending China's right to reclaim its historical territory. Russian liberals, on the other hand, have focused on the possible threat to human rights in Hong Kong after the colony is handed over to the communist government in Beijing.