Wednesday brought a rare geopolitical sight: open rift between China and the United Kingdom, two governments that have been moving ever closer as the latter rebalances its traditional relations with Washington and Brussels.

The spectacle came in the form of a press conference organized by the Chinese embassy in London. In it, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming lambasted British officials for having publicly stood up for the rights of Hong Kong protesters. According to Liu, his hosts had “chose to stand on the wrong side,” and “made inappropriate remarks not only to interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong but also back up the violent lawbreakers.”

His comments refer to the ongoing protest movement in the former British colony, which culminated with the storming of the parliament on July 1. The dramatic events coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the UK’s handover of Hong Kong. In remarks commemorating the occasion, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt reiterated his government’s support for the Sino-British Joint Declaration and called on Beijing to continue respecting Hong Kong’s autonomy. Hunt also threatened “serious consequences” should there be a violent crackdown against the protesters.