The UK will bear the consequences if it continues to go “down the wrong road” on Hong Kong, China has warned yesterday. On Monday, the UK suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong over a new security law for the ex-colony, which gives Beijing more power. In response, the Chinese ambassador in London affirmed that the UK had “blatantly interfered” in China’s affairs. Liu Xiaoming said: “China has never interfered in UK’s internal affairs. The UK should do the same with China.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to offer three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK, allowing them to ultimately apply for British citizenship. The moves came after Beijing introduced the controversial new security law at the end of June, creating offences that could see Hong Kong residents sent to mainland China for trial. Critics have claimed the law could see pro-democracy protesters in the region being served with life sentences.
Tensions between London and Beijing have been rising, with the UK government separately announcing it would require the removal of Chinese technology from the UK’s fledgling 5G mobile network. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in London on Monday evening ahead of talks with the PM on issues including China and the coronavirus pandemic. According to its opponents, the new security legislation breaches an agreement made with the UK before Hong Kong – a former British colony – was handed over to China in 1997. Under a 50-year agreement, China enshrined civil liberties – including the right to protest, freedom of speech and the independence of the judiciary – in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, an approach which came to be known as “one country, two systems”.
The U.K. has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid rising tensions with China over its new national security law in the former British colony. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced in a speech to the House of Commons on Monday that the treaty would be suspended indefinitely, accusing China of a “clear and serious violation of the U.K.-China joint declaration, and with it a violation of China’s freely assumed international obligations.”
The decision means that if someone in the UK is suspected of a crime in Hong Kong, they will not automatically be handed over by British authorities to face justice there. Ambassador Liu said in a tweet that the UK had “contravened international law and the basic norms governing international relations” with the move. And a statement published on the Chinese Embassy’s website said: “China urges the UK side to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, in any form. The U.K. has also offered visa rights to 3 million Hong Kong citizens in the wake of the bill’s passage, with Western powers accusing China of clamping down on the city’s autonomy.
Mr Raab on Sunday accused China of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses against a minority group known as the Uighurs, and said sanctions against those responsible cannot be ruled out. The Uighurs are mostly Muslims and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations, and their language is similar to Turkish. The majority live in Xinjiang, western China, where they number about 11 million people. It is believed that the Chinese government has detained up to a million Uighurs over the past few years in what the state defines as re-education camps. The government is now also accused of a programme of forced sterilisation against Uighur women.
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