By David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Official Chinese media reports about a U.S. diplomat who met with student leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement “have gone from irresponsible to dangerous” and must stop, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Friday.
“Chinese authorities know full well, our accredited consular personnel are just doing their jobs, just like diplomats from every other country,” Ortagus added in a tweet.
She did not elaborate on the nature of the reports, but said: “This must stop.”
On Thursday, Ortagus called China a “thuggish regime” for disclosing photographs and personal details of the diplomat, identified by a Hong Kong newspaper as Julie Eadeh of the U.S. consulate’s political section.
“I don’t think that leaking an American diplomat’s private information, pictures, names of their children — I don’t think that is a formal protest … That is not how a responsible nation would behave,” she told a briefing.
The Hong Kong office of China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday asked the United States to explain reports in Communist Party-controlled media that U.S. diplomats were in contact with student leaders of protests that have convulsed Hong Kong for nine weeks.
The denunciations from the State Department are unusually sharp and have come as tensions between Washington and Beijing surge over an expanding trade war and military rivalry in the western Pacific, among other disputes.
The Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao published a photograph it said showed Eadeh talking with student leaders in the lobby of a luxury hotel. It appeared under the headline “Foreign Forces Intervene”.
The State Department has not identified the diplomat and has not elaborated on what kinds of private information or children’s details were disclosed.
In subsequent tweets on Friday, Ortagus said “foreign diplomats in the United States, including Chinese ones, enjoy open access to all elements of American politics, civil society, academia, and business.”
“China has a long record of broken commitments; it’s their duty under the Vienna Conventions, to which China is a party, to treat our diplomats and consular officers with due respect and take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on their person, freedom or dignity,” she said.
China has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States, of fomenting the demonstrations in Hong Kong.
Earlier on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not ready to make a deal with China and even called a September round of trade talks into question, reviving concerns in financial markets that the bilateral dispute is unlikely to end anytime soon.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Eric Beech; Editing by Sandra Maler)