By Hitesh Tikoo
London, July 21 (IANS) The UK has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong after China imposed a new security law in the territory, which the British government believes gives Chinese authorities sweeping powers to crack down on dissent, and a new level of control over the city.
Addressing the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the security law was “a clear and serious violation of the UK-China joint declaration and with it a violation of China’s freely assumed international obligations”.
The extradition ban would not be lifted without “clear and robust” guarantees that it would not be “misused under the national security legislation”.
“The UK is watching and the whole world is watching,” the Foreign Secretary said.
Raab also announced a ban on sales of “potentially lethal weapons” to Hong Kong, extending an embargo in place with mainland China since 1989.
In response to the development, the Chinese Ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming said the UK had “blatantly interfered” in Beijing’s affairs.
“China has never interfered in UK’s internal affairs. The UK should do the same to China,” Liu said.
A statement published by the Chinese Embassy said: “China urges the UK side to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, in any form.
“The UK will bear the consequences if it insists on going down the wrong road.”
While Raab’s decisions were welcomed by both Labour and Conservative parliamentarians, a number of the ruling party MP’s said the government must begin with what Tobias Ellwood, a former Foreign Office and defence minister, called “a strategic overhaul of our foreign policy in relation to China”.
Ellwood told Raab: “For decades we’ve turned a blind eye to China’s democratic deficit and human rights violations, in the hope that it would mature into a global, responsible citizen. That clearly hasn’t happened.
“Is this now the turning point where we drop the pretence that China shares our values?”
Beijing and London have been a loggerheads since China imposed the new security law in Hong Kong.
Raab has accused China of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses against its Uighur population and said sanctions against those responsible cannot be ruled out.
The UK government recently shut down Chinese tech giant Huawei from UK’s 5G network, in a major U-turn just six months after approving its involvement.
The British government has said that Beijing’s imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong constituted a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 and aimed at smoothing the transition when the territory was handed back to China in 1997.