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Thu, 2 July 2020

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Boris Johnson ‘mulls crackdown on Chinese takeovers’ amid row over Huawei and Hong Kong

Boris Johnson ‘mulls crackdown on Chinese takeovers’ amid row over Huawei and Hong Kong

Conservative MPs have warned against Huawei playing a role in the UK’s 5G network.

2 min read

Boris Johnson is reportedly planning a crackdown on foreign takeovers that may pose a risk to the UK’s national security amid mounting Tory concern about the role of China.

The Times reports that Number 10 is looking at legislation — backed up by criminal sanctions — that would compel British companies to report attempted takeovers that could raise security concerns.

Under the proposals, directors who do not raise the flag could be jailed, disqualified or heavily fined.

The reports come amid rising tensions between the UK and China over a clampdown on protesters in Hong Kong and the presence of Chinese firm Huawei in the UK’s 5G network.

Welcoming the proposals, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat — who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee and has been pushing the UK to take a more hardline stance against Beijing — said the UK currently had “some of the weakest protections against foreign takeovers of any nation”.

He added: “There is a danger that if we do not keep pace then our companies will be naked when everyone else is wearing armour.”

The proposed measures would see British firms required to declare when a foreign company attempts to buy more than 25 of its shares, gain “significant assets” or buy up assets and intellectual property.

According to The Times, the Prime Minister is also keen to see tougher restrictions on university academic partnerships and research projects involving China.

The proposals follow weeks of heightened rhetoric between London and Beijing over Hong Kong.

Ministers have vowed to overhaul citizenship rules to allow more Hong Kong citizens to live and work in Britain in the wake of a security clampdown in the former UK colony.

Mr Johnson last week warned the proposed new security law risked coming into “direct conflict” with the joint Sino-British treaty vowing to protect Hong Kong’s freedoms.

China has said the fate of the coastal city is “purely an internal Chinese matter”, and warned: “No other country has the right to interfere."

The Government meanwhile angered Conservative MPs earlier this year by giving the green-light for Chinese firm Huawei to play a role in the UK's high-speed telecoms network, despite warnings from the United States that the move could compromise intelligence-sharing. 

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