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Ahead of British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s meeting before Parliament on Monday, expectations are circulating about British plans to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
“On Hong Kong, I’m going to go to the House of Commons tomorrow to make a further statement on the work we’ve been doing with our partners in government,” Raab said to Sky news on Sunday.
“I’ve said that we’d review a whole range of other considerations. One of the things that we reviewed is our extradition arrangements, and I will be updating the House on the conclusion of that review, along with other things that we’ve been looking at, tomorrow,” he went on to say.
Even before the highly anticipated announcement, it has already been welcomed by lawmakers and activists who have lobbied for weeks to suspend the extradition treaty, which it is feared will be used to persecute Hong Kong people.
Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, who recently fled to the UK, tweeted that there is “very strong support on the idea of suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Law also expressed relief that upon the official termination of the Hong Kong extradition treaty, Beijing would no longer be able to “drag me back.”
“That’s such good news because it means that Britain recognises that Hong Kong’s rule of law does not exist. For me, it’s important that they can’t extradite me back to Hong Kong,” he added.
Iain Duncan Smith, the ex-leader of Britain’s Conservative Party said, “This is the right thing to do in response to the Chinese government crackdown on people in Hong Kong.”
Smith is also one of the co-founders of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) – a coalition of more than eight intergovernmental bodies that aims to combat China’s global influence on trade, security and human rights.
However, sources say that Raab’s announcement is likely to stop short of imposing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials, heeding strong warnings and threats of retaliation from Beijing.
UK Chinese ambassador speaks out
“If UK government goes that far to impose sanctions on any individual in China, China will certainly make a resolute response to it,” said Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK, in an interview with the BBC.
Liu also accused the UK of submitting to pressure from the United States, referring to the British decision to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from their 5G infrastructure last week.
“You have seen what happened between China and the United States. They sanctioned Chinese officials; we sanctioned their senators, their officials. I do not want to see this tit-for-tat between China-U.S. happen in China-U.K. relations,” said Liu on Sunday.
“I think the U.K. should have its own independent foreign policy rather than dance to the tune of the Americans, like what happened to Huawei.”
As Britain follows in the footsteps of its allies to suspend business dealings with Huawei, Communist Party officials have since issued warnings of retaliation against British companies operating in China.
According to a report published by the Sunday Times, viral video app TikTok, owned by Beijing based startup giant Bytedance Ltd., has suspended talks to build a global headquarters in the UK.
Despite being privately owned, Bytedance has found itself caught up in China’s political confrontations. For example, India has banned TikTok along with other Chinese apps after a skirmish at their border turned deadly. US officials have also said that they are considering a similar move.
However, Britain is not the only country making moves to directly counter the Chinese government following Beijing’s enactment of its national security law in Hong Kong. Two other members of the Five Eyes alliance – Canada and Australia– have already officially revoked their extradition agreements with Hong Kong. The two remaining members – the US and New Zealand – are said to be discussing similar moves, with the latter saying that it would reassess extradition as part of a “deliberate, considered” review of Hong Kong relations.
European Union might be next
The European Union is also allegedly considering existing extradition treaties between Hong Kong and its members including Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Should the UK proceed with the termination of the extradition treaty, it would be the first European country to do so.
Tensions are already high between the UK and China given Britain’s agreement to open up paths to citizenship for up to three million Hong Kongers shortly after the imposition of the security law.
Both the UK’s recent talks regarding extradition to Hong Kong and the expulsion of Huawei technologies from its 5G network are contributing to an already souring relationship between the UK and China, which was once expected to enter a so-called “golden era”.
“On the one hand we want a positive relationship with China. Equally, with various efforts … the resilience of our vital interests like 5G and when it comes to standing up for our values which we’ve done very clearly on Hong Kong… we will always make clear our position on those key interests and on our key values to China,” Raab said.
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