LONDON — The U.K. ramped up its dispute with China as it suspended its extradition deal with Hong Kong.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the agreement would be halted with immediate effect. He added that the U.K. will stop sending weapons to Hong Kong for fear of misuse.
Raab told the House of Commons it was a “reasonable and proportionate” response amid rising tensions with Beijing, in order to “hold China to its international obligations.”
The U.K. has taken a harder line on China since it imposed a new security law in Hong Kong that could see people handed long jail sentences for subversion. It has also decided to ban Chinese tech firm Huawei from involvement in the British 5G network over security fears. Meanwhile, Britain has become more vocal about alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur minority in Northwest China.
“The U.K. is watching and the whole world is watching,” Raab said. “We want a positive relationship with China. There is a huge amount to be gained for both countries.”
Raab said the U.K. was worried that criminal suspects extradited to Hong Kong could face trial on the Chinese mainland under the new security law. He said the extradition deal will be suspended indefinitely.
Under the arms embargo, there can be no exports from the U.K. to Hong Kong of any potentially lethal weapon or anything that could be used for repression.
Raab added that more detail will be set out this week about the route to British citizenship that the government has announced for Hong Kongers with British Nationals Overseas status.
The move comes as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in London for meetings Tuesday with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Raab. The U.S. had put pressure on the U.K. to adopt a more skeptical approach to China after Johnson in January decided to allow Huawei to build some parts of the U.K.’s 5G network, before reversing that decision in July.
Earlier, Johnson said he was “not going to be pushed into a position of becoming a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China.”
During a school visit, he said the U.K. has “serious concerns” about human rights issues in China but that the Asian nation was “a giant fact of geopolitics” and Britain will have to continue engagement with Beijing.
Conservative Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Tugendhat welcomed the announcements on arms and extradition in the House of Commons, as did other Tory hawks on China and opposition MPs.
“This must mark the start of a more strategic approach to China based on an ethical approach to foreign policy and an end to the naivety of the Golden Era years,” said Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, pointing to the reaching out to China that happened when David Cameron was prime minister.