China threatens 'consequences' over UK extradition move

By: AFP      Published: 12:37 PM, 21 Jul, 2020
China threatens 'consequences' over UK extradition move

China on Tuesday warned of "consequences" after Britain suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in protest at a controversial new security law in the territory.

London's decision threatened to put Sino-British ties under further strain, days after the UK vowed to remove all Huawei 5G equipment from its networks, and as British politicians criticise China for its treatment of ethnic minority groups.

A statement on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Britain criticised the suspension of the treaty and said "the UK side has gone even further down the wrong road".

"China urges the UK side to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs," the statement said.

"The UK will bear the consequences if it insists on going down the wrong road."

Britain's extradition treaty suspension comes after similar tough action against China by the United States, Canada and Australia.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the widely expected move in parliament on Monday, despite repeated Chinese warnings that Britain was making a grave foreign policy error and risked reprisals.

"The government has decided to suspend the extradition treaty immediately and indefinitely," he said, adding that the security law -- which allows some cases to be tried in mainland China -- undermines key British assumptions about the extradition treaty

Critics have said the security law is an erosion of civil liberties and human rights in the semi-autonomous financial hub.

Britain this month offered what amounted to a pathway to citizenship to up to three million Hong Kong residents in response to the controversial law.

Pompeo to meet UK PM

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday following London's diplomatically fraught severing of ties with China's Huawei and retaliation for Beijing's treatment of Hong Kong.

The top US diplomat's last visit to London in January came just days after Johnson ignored warnings from Washington and allowed the private Chinese tech giant to help roll out Britain's 5G network.

It was a frosty affair that saw Pompeo accuse Britain of endangering Western intelligence-sharing by putting China at the heart of its next-generation data system.

Britain's relationship with China was then blooming as Johnson sought lucrative partners that could fill the void left by the UK's exit in January from the European Union.

But the months that followed have seen Britain edge ever closer to US President Donald Trump's administration in its geopolitical tug-of-war with China.

Johnson's most dramatic policy reversal saw him order UK mobile providers to stop buying 5G equipment from Huawei starting next year and remove existing gear by 2027.

"We were happy about it," Pompeo told reporters last week. "Prime Minister Johnson got the complete right end of the stick on this one."

The Chinese foreign ministry responded by accusing Britain of becoming "America's dupe".

The range of steps taken by Johnson in the past month threaten to bring an early end to a "golden decade" in cooperation that former British finance minister George Osborne promised on a visit to Beijing in 2015.

London has also outraged Beijing by offering nearly three million residents of Hong Kong a pathway to UK citizenship in response to a highly controversial security law that China imposed on the former British colony last month.

Britain followed that up on Monday by suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extending an arms embargo of "potentially lethal weapons" that had previously applied only to mainland China.

- Unpopular president -

Pompeo's visit will include talks with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and a sideline meeting with exiled Hong Kong protest leader Nathan Law.

A separate get-together with Britain's last Hong Kong governor Chris Patten is aimed at further stressing the seeming new understanding about Beijing.

Yet some tensions between London and Washington remain.

Johnson is keen to avoid being too closely associated with Trump -- whose approval in Britain is languishing at around 20 percent -- despite the "special relationship" between the two historical allies.

The UK government stresses that it only ditched Huawei after new US sanctions imposed in May threatened the safety of future 5G equipment produced in China.

But Pompeo said he did not think US sanctions had played a role.

"You suggested they did this because of US sanctions. I don't actually think that's true," he told reporters last week.

"I actually think they did this because their security teams came to the same conclusion that ours have, is that you can't protect this information."

Washington argues that the Chinese Community Party can force Huawei to either intercept UK data or shut down the British network in times of war.

Huawei has always denied this was the case.

Britain's planned release Tuesday of a report into alleged Russian meddling in British politics also threatens to complicate Pompeo's trip.

The report was commissioned in response to concerns that Moscow attempted to help Trump win the presidency in 2016.

Trump and Pompeo reject suggestions that Russia played any meaningful role in the vote.