Hong Kong protesters hold mobile devices
Protesters turn on their mobile phone flashlights as they block an area outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong, Oct. 1, 2014. Reuters/Carlos Barria

The Chinese government warned against “illegal acts” as demonstrators camped out overnight in Hong Kong. Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking in Washington Wednesday, said the Hong Kong situation is a matter of China’s “internal affairs,” and all foreign governments must respect “China's sovereignty,” according to the BBC.

“The Chinese government has very firmly and clearly stated its position,” Wang said at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to celebrate China’s National Day, Oct 1. “For any country, for any society, no one will allow those illegal acts that violate public order.”

He added that the Obama administration probably would handle such demonstrations the same way were they happening in the U.S.

Kerry said he had “high hopes” that the Chinese government would “exercise restraint and respect for the protestors’ right to express their views peacefully.”

Since this weekend, the pro-democracy activist movement Occupy Central has led thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong to demand the freedom of a full democratic election in 2017. Hong Kong was given back to China by the British in 1997 under the terms that it would have a certain degree of autonomy, but in August 2014 China said it still would let only approved candidates run in the 2017 elections.

Earlier this summer Occupy Central held an unofficial referendum on “universal suffrage.” Nearly 800,000 people voted in the referendum and 42 percent were in favor of choosing their own leaders. Tensions began to rise in late September when a group of students from Chinese University of Hong Kong campus staged a weeklong boycott of classes. The student demonstration was a precursor to Occupy Central’s larger planned protest for China’s National Day, which was Wednesday.

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it supports protesters’ democratic goals as long as they fit within the “One Country, Two Systems” principle that China has promised to Hong Kong.

“We support universal suffrage in Hong Kong accordant with the Basic Law, and we believe an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” Kerry said.

While he and Kerry may have disagreed on Hong Kong, Wang said China was still committed to strengthening its relationship with the U.S.

“China and the United States need to work together to build a new model of major country relations featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation,” he said. “This meets our common interests, meets the expectation of the international community.”