Dominic Raab told MPs an arms embargo on China will be extended to Hong Kong and the extradition treaty with the territory will be suspended “immediately and indefinitely”. The Foreign Secretary warned China that the world will be watching its enforced of the new security law in Hong Kong. Speaking in Commons, Mr Raab said: “There remains considerable uncertainty about the way in which the new national security law will be enforced. I will just say this, the UK is watching and the whole world is watching. In the last few weeks I’ve been engaged with many of our international partners about how we should best respond to the unfolding events in Hong Kong.”
China was already smarting over the Government’s decision last week to exclude the tech giant Huawei from the UK’s 5G network – reversing a decision in January allowing it a limited role.
Mr Raab threatened to pour further fuel on flames, accusing the communist regime of committing “gross, egregious human rights abuses” against the country’s Uighur population in the north-western Xinjiang province.
The criticism was furthered by the chair of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood, who said Britain has “been duped over the last couple of decades” by China.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme: “I really want to see a reset of our entire foreign policy, bearing in mind that we are sliding towards a cold war, we can’t do this on our own, we need to work with our allies.”
“We turned a blind eye to what was going on with the Uighur population, we turned a blind eye to the uneven trade situation whereby Chinese companies could operate quite liberally within the UK and elsewhere but our companies couldn’t operate within China and now I think it’s time to say enough is enough.”
The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said Beijing was still evaluating its response to the Huawei ruling.
There were reports at the weekend that the the Chinese social media company TikTok had broken off talks to open a global headquarters in Britain.
Communist Party officials were also reported to have warned UK companies operating in China, including Jaguar Land Rover, BP and GlaxoSmithKline, that they could now face retaliation.
Mr Liu warned Britain not to get drawn into a “tit-for-tat” confrontation in the way the US had, imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged abuses in Xinjiang, prompting Beijing to sanction a number of US senators and officials.
Mr Raab played down suggestions any such measures were imminent under the UK’s new independent sanctions regime, saying that it took a long time to build a case against any alleged abusers.
He insisted also that Britain wanted a “positive relationship” with China, working with it on issues like climate change as well as trade and investment.
However, with further UK measures due now on Hong Kong, relations look set to deteriorate even further.
More to follow…