China has retaliated against criticism from Five Eyes member states accusing the group of western democracies of interfering in domestic issues that don't concern them.
In the Communist-party controlled tabloid Global Times on Friday an editorial called Five Eyes "more like a criminal gang in which the U.S. calls the tune and its pawns go fight for it or applaud it."
"In fact, this tiny group, originally designed to share intelligence, has already turned into a loudspeaker for the U.S.' anti-China campaign, as well as a fan club that sets an example for other Western countries how to show loyalty to Washington," the unsigned editorial said.
Meanwhile, China foreign ministry representative Zhao Lijian said late Thursday in response to a Five Eyes statement earlier that day: "Should anyone dare to undermine China's sovereignty, security and development interests, [they should] be careful not to get poked in the eye,"
The signals intelligence alliance - made up of Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the UK - criticized the China government for violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 which guarantees Hong Kong a measure of autonomy until 2047.
The National People's Congress in Beijing last week passed a resolution requiring "patriotism" from all elected officials in the city - causing four Hong Kong opposition members to be immediately disqualified. Another 15 pan-democrats resigned in protest.
"We stand with the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in calling out China's disqualification of elected Hong Kong legislators as a clear breach of its international obligations," American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in a Nov. 19 Twitter post.
The Five Eyes urged China to reconsider the LegCo disqualifications and to reinstate the four lawmakers who had fallen afoul of the NPC resolution. But speaking on behalf of the China government, Zhao accused the foreign nations of meddling.
"We deplore and firmly oppose relevant country's finger-pointing over China's Hong Kong affairs, which is a flagrant violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations," the China foreign ministry official said.
"Relevant countries should face up to the fact that Hong Kong has returned to China, abandon double standards, earnestly respect China's sovereignty, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong's affairs."
The Global Times editorial was particularly critical of Australia. It said Australia "has been brutally reshaped by Washington. China-Australia relations used to be good - China has been the largest trading partner to Australia, which is one of the most favored countries by Chinese tourists and students.
"There is no reason for Australia to have more hatred toward China than many U.S. allies in Europe - even if it doesn't agree with China in some aspects due to ideological differences. However, Australia has become one of the Western countries that have gone too far on the anti-China path."