Official Chinese media reports about a US diplomat who met with student leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement “have gone from irresponsible to dangerous” and must stop, the US state department has said.

“Chinese authorities know full well, our accredited consular personnel are just doing their jobs, just like diplomats from every other country,” said spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

On Thursday, Ortagus called China a “thuggish regime” for disclosing photographs and personal details of the diplomat.

“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 said.

The Hong Kong office of China’s foreign ministry on Thursday asked the United States to explain reports in Communist party-controlled media that US diplomats were in contact with student leaders of the protests that have convulsed Hong Kong for nine weeks.

The denunciations from the state department were unusually sharp and came amid tensions between Washington and Beijing 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 the diplomat talking with student leaders in the lobby of a luxury hotel. It appeared under the headline “Foreign Forces Intervene”.

The state department did not confirm the diplomat’s identity nor elaborate on what kinds of private information or children’s details were disclosed.

China has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States, of fomenting the demonstrations in Hong Kong.


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