Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee Chu-ming has "fired a bullet" at Beijing by urging the United States to intervene in China's internal affairs, political analysts say.
Lee's call, made in an article published in The Wall Street Journal last week, has stirred a backlash from Beijing loyalists, who virtually accused him of being a traitor.
Tam Yiu-chung, who heads the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, led the attack in the Legislative Council yesterday, describing Lee's comments as a "classic example" of inviting foreign forces to meddle in the affairs of Hong Kong and the mainland.
In the article, Lee urged President George W Bush to use next year's Olympic Games to force China into improving its human- rights record and press freedom.
"The political fire is burning," said James Sung Lap-kung, a professor in politics at the City University of Hong Kong. He warned this could further damage the already strained relations between Beijing and the democrats in Hong Kong.
"I think Lee is falling into a pitfall by asking someone to interfere in China's domestic affairs. This is exactly what President Hu Jintao warned against last week.
"Lee is upgrading his condemnation and giving the bullet to Hong Kong. He's not talking about speeding up democracy in Hong Kong but asking Bush to improve press freedom and human rights [in China]," Sung said.
In his opening speech to the Chinese Communist Party's 17th National Congress earlier this month, Hu issued a stern warning against any attempt by "foreign forces" to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs - an apparent reference to the United States and other Western countries which have backed repeated calls by the pro- democracy camp for universal suffrage in the territory.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer in public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Lee's article also touched on two issues regarded as a taboo by Beijing.
"First, Beijing does not want the Olympics to be politicized and, second, it does not want overseas forces to interfere in its domestic affairs.
"Hu revealed his worries about foreign intervention and now they're being invited to do so. This will worsen the relationship between the democrats and Beijing," he said.
Analyst Ray Yep, a lecturer in public and social administration at the City University, however, disagreed that Lee's call would have a significant impact on Beijing. He believes Hu's warning against external interference was driven by a need to prove that the "one country, two systems" model works.
"Hu knows the world is keeping an eye on Hong Kong and the progress of the `one country, two systems' concept, and on Taiwan. We have now seen a new party leadership taking office and there's the Olympics. Even without this, Beijing needs to prove to the world that `one country, two systems' is making progress. The Beijing leadership is more sensitive to international opinion."