Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office has lashed out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over Washington slapping sanctions on Chinese officials following the detention of more than 50 Hong Kong activists late last week.
"People like Pompeo are nothing but laughable praying mantises who are trying in vain to stop the rolling wheels of history", the office said in a statement on Monday.
This was an apparent reference to an old Chinese saying about a mantis attempting to stop a chariot, referring to a person who is seeking to overrate themselves.
The office rejected the US sanctions as "a political trick when all other tricks are exhausted", also calling on Pompeo to "wind up the show", in a apparent nod to the secretary of state's upcoming departure from office.
"Hong Kong's development from chaos to stability is unstoppable", the statement pointed out, a few days after the Hong Kong government bashed the sanctions as "insane, shameless, and despicable".
This followed the Trump administration imposing sanctions on an array of Chinese officials in response to Hong Kong arresting more than 50 people on 6 January in what Washington described as "an appalling crackdown on pro-democracy politicians and activists who were trying to advance fair and open primary elections for Hong Kong's Legislative Council".
Beijing, in turn, insists the activists were detained on charges of subversion and violation of the national security law about a week after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that the White House will pay a "heavy price" for its threats to sanction Chinese officials over the Hong Kong detentions.
The activists were detained earlier in January on suspicions of plotting to force Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam to step down and paralyse the work of the semi-autonomous territory's government.
The arrest came after a national security law was enacted in Hong Kong, a former UK colony, in late June 2020.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government argue that the new law only serves to safeguard China's national security, while respecting people's liberties as well as the city's special status. A number of countries in the West, however, view the new law as allegedly undermining Hong Kong's autonomy, which Beijing pledged under the joint declaration with the UK in 1984.