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Britain set to shelve extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid spiralling UK-China relations

Britain set to shelve extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid spiralling UK-China relations

Fishing boats parade at the Victoria Harbour to celebrate the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.

3 min read

Britain is to shelve its longstanding extradition treaty with Hong Kong on Monday amid mounting tensions with China.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is expected to deliver a Commons statement this afternoon suspending agreements that have been in place for more than 30 years.

The move comes after Mr Raab accused Beijing of “gross, egregious human rights abuses” in the treatment of its Muslim Uighur population.

The UK has also been deeply critical of a new security law passed in Hong Kong, and last week set out plans to remove Chinese telecoms firm Huawei from Britain’s 5G telecoms infrastructure.

Mr Raab has already offered expanded residency rights to an estimated three million Hong Kong citizens over the security clampdown in the former British colony, a move Beijing has condemned as “interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs”.

But the Foreign Secretary is expected to go a step further and confirm that Britain is ending an arrangement under which those suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong can be apprehended and returned to face trial there.

Hong Kong’s new law clamps down on secession, subversion and terrorism following years of protests.

It has been roundly condemned by western countries including the UK, which has said the legislation runs counter to the Sino-British joint declaration that saw the UK hand Hong Kong back to China in 1997, and was intended to protect its “one country, two systems” form of autonomous government.

Mr Raab on Sunday meanwhile stepped up his criticism of Beijing, telling the BBC that it was "clear there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on" against the Uighur population in China’s Xinjiang province.

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, flatly denied that Uighurs — who have reportedly been subject to forced sterilisation and sent to labour camps — had been mistreated, saying they lived a “peaceful and harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups”.

Speaking on Sunday night, Conservative MP and Defence Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood told the BBC's Westminster Hour: “We’ve been duped over the last couple of decades. China is now pursuing a competing geopolitical ideology and for the first time ever we’re starting to sing a different tune, firstly on 5G, now on Hong Kong.

"But these are all tactical responses, almost like we’re responding to chess moves.”

Calling for a “reset of our entire” relationship with Beijing, Mr Ellwood said: “We turned a blind eye to what was going on with the Uighur population.

"We turned a blind eye to the uneven trade situation whereby Chinese companies could operate quite liberally within the UK and elsewhere but our companies couldn’t operate within China.

"And now I think it’s time to say enough is enough.”

Mr Raab’s statement comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a visit to the UK. 

Secretary Pompeo has been fiercely critical of China, while US President Donald Trump has claimed credit for the UK’s decision to pull Huawei from involvement in its high-speed telecoms network.

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