Britain has said it is indefinitely suspending its extradition deal with Hong Kong with immediate effect, after Beijing enacted a controversial security law in the city. London will also extend its arms embargo against China to Hong Kong.
Addressing parliament on Monday, the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the security law was “a clear and serious violation of the UK-China joint declaration” which gave rise to the 1997 Handover. He called the new measures necessary and proportionate and a response to passages in the controversial new law which allow cases to be heard in China.
“The United Kingdom is watching, and the whole world is watching,” Raab said. “We will hold China to its international obligations.”
Raab said that Britain sought to have a good relationship with China and stopped short of announcing Magnitsky sanctions against Chinese officials. However, he added that co-operation and training between the UK and Hong Kong police, as well as business links, would be kept under review.
Beijing has promised a “resolute response,” should the UK take such action with foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemning the plan earlier on Monday: “We urge the UK to take no more steps down the wrong path, so as to avoid further damage to China-UK relations.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern about China’s actions ahead of Raab’s speech, but said a “balanced” approach to Beijing was needed: “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… We’re going to be tough on some things, but we’re going to continue to engage.”
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
Shortly after the law was enacted, Britain extended residency rights for Hongkongers with British National Overseas passports. London has also pledged to strip telecommunications gear manufactured by China’s Huawei from their 5G infrastructure by 2027 amid security concerns.
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