China warns UK of 'consequences' over Hong Kong 'interference'

21 July 2020, 06:57

"The UK will bear the consequences if it insists on going down the wrong road," China said
"The UK will bear the consequences if it insists on going down the wrong road," China said. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Britain will "bear the consequences" if it continues to go "down the wrong road" on Hong Kong, China has warned.

On Monday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong over a controversial new security law with gives Beijing more power over the territory.

Mr Raab also accused China of "gross, egregious human rights abuses" against the country's Uighur population in the Xinjiang province.

In response to the growing tensions amid the two nations, the Chinese ambassador in London said the UK had "blatantly interfered" in China's affairs.

Earlier this month, the Government pledged to offer three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK, allowing them to ultimately apply for British citizenship.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London said in a statement Beijing had expressed its concerns over the UK interfering in Hong Kong matters "which are internal affairs of China".

The spokesman said: "Now the UK side has gone even further down the wrong road in disregard of China's solemn position and repeated representations.

"It once again contravened international law and the basic norms governing international relations and blatantly interfered in China's internal affairs in an attempt to disrupt the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR and undermine the city's prosperity and stability.

"China urges the UK side to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs, in any form.

"The UK will bear the consequences if it insists on going down the wrong road."

China will be high on the agenda when Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday during a Downing Street conference.

Secretary Pompeo is also set to meet British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab later in the day.

Mr Pompeo tweeted: "Looking forward to meeting with Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab as we tackle our most pressing global issues in combating Covid-19 and addressing our shared security challenges."

The arrival of the former US army officer comes after the UK not only suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong but also slapped an arms embargo on the territory in response to China's national security law.

Mr Raab said the measures were a "reasonable and proportionate" response to the law imposed by Beijing - a law Washington has joined in criticising.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said many countries were concerned about the government in Beijing.

He said: "This is a problem for the free world right now, so France and Germany are having to make decisions.

"You've got other countries elsewhere in Europe and in the far east that are all worried about the dominance and the dependency that China is putting people into given the nature of its regime."

Relations between Washington and Beijing have been tense since Donald Trump took office, which the two nations embroiled in a tit-for-tat trade war.

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Huawei over security concerns - a decision that played a major part in the UK Government's move last week to demand that the Chinese technology giant's equipment is stripped out of the country's burgeoning 5G network by 2027.

Backbench Tories, including Commons Liaison Committee chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin, have been pressing for a tougher approach to Beijing, particularly in relation to its role in building nuclear power plants in Britain.

The U-turn on Huawei - a reversal of the announcement in January allowing it a limited 5G role - has left China aggrieved.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming criticised the Government's approach in a combative BBC interview on Sunday, denouncing Britain for "dancing to the tune" of the US and accusing Western countries of trying to foment a "new cold war" with China.

But on Monday, Mr Raab took further action when he told MPs the extradition treaty with Hong Kong was being suspended "immediately and indefinitely" because of concerns the security legislation could allow cases to be transferred to mainland China.

An arms embargo with mainland China has been in place since 1989 and that will now be extended to Hong Kong because of the extra powers Beijing now has for the internal security of the territory.

Mr Raab's actions came after Mr Johnson promised a "tough" but "calibrated" response to Beijing.

In an interview before Mr Raab's announcement, the Prime Minister had promised to strike a balance in his approach to Beijing, resisting pressure from China hawks to take a hardline stance.

"I'm not going to be pushed into a position of becoming a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China," he said.

"But we do have serious concerns."

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy suggested the Government could take steps to bar Chinese Communist Party officials from the UK and called for a "new era" in terms of the Britain's relationship with the country.

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