UK-China relations could hit a new low today as the government prepares to tear up its agreement with Hong Kong on the deportation of suspected criminals.
The move is driven by fears that Hong Kongers extradited from the UK could be prosecuted under new laws imposed by China for offences such as ‘subversion’ and ‘terrorism’ that British judges do not recognise.
The first person held under the new law was arrested for holding a ‘Hong Kong independence’ flag in the street.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab strongly hinted the extradition treaty could end today, while also threatening to impose sanctions over ‘gross’ human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in China.
Mr Raab announced a review into the agreement had been completed on Sunday and that there would be no ‘business as usual’ with Hong Kong after an ‘update’ to Parliament on Monday.
It follows last week’s decision to force Chinese tech giant Huawei out of the UK’s 5G network, reversing a ruling earlier this year which would have allowed it some involvement.
Canada and Australia have already ripped up their extradition treaties with Hong Kong, while the US has begun sanctioning Chinese officials believed to be complicit in rights abuses in Xinjiang.
The autonomous region in northwest China is home to eight million Uighur people, as well as numerous ‘re-education’ camps set up by the government to eradicate what it calls ‘extremist’ views after a number of separatist attacks in the region.
Human rights organisations and media reports indicate hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities such as Hui and Kazakhs have been forced into the camps without trial since 2017 and subjected to indoctrination.
China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, denied any abuses were taking place after being shown footage of an alleged prisoner transfer as well as an Uighur woman claiming she had been forcibly sterilised. He admitted there may be ‘single cases’.
The ambassador warned Britain not to get into a ‘tit-for-tat confrontation’, accusing ministers of ‘dancing to the tune’ of the US and risking a ‘new cold war’.
He suggested Beijing could have more retaliations in store after Chinese-owned TikTok abruptly ended talks to open a global office in London.
Communist Party officials have also reportedly warned British companies with operations in China, such as Jaguar Land Rover and GlaxoSmithKline, that they could be dragged into the spat.
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