Dominic Raab suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong 'immediately and indefinitely'
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Credit: PA)
Dominic Raab has suspended the UK's extradition treaty with Hong Kong "immediately and indefinitely" amid ongoing tensions with the Chinese government.
The Foreign Secretary confirmed the step in the Commons on Monday, after accusing Beijing of “gross, egregious human rights abuses” in the treatment of its Muslim Uighur population.
The UK government has also been 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 said the move, coupled with an extension of the embargo on arms exports from the UK to include Hong Kong, was "a necessary and proportionate response" to China's actions.
He said its new security legislation represented a "clear and serious of violation" of the agreement between the two countries.
He told MPs: "It’s precisely because we recogise China’s role in the world, as a fellow member of the G20, a fellow permanent member of the UN security council, that we expect China to live up to the international obligations and international responsibilities that come with that stature.
"That’s the positive, constructive, the mature, the reciprocal relationship that we seek with China. Striving for good cooperation; honest and clear where we have to disagree."
The extradition arrangements, which had been in place for three decades, allows those suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong to be apprehended and returned to face trial there.
Mr Raab said they would be suspended indefinitely, until "clear and robust safeguards" to prevent it from being misused were put in place.
He added: "There remains considerable uncertainty about the way in which the national security law will be enforced. I’ll just say this: the United Kingdom is watching, and the whole world is watching."
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the Labour Party welcomed both the treaty suspension and arms embargo extension and asked if the Government would also consider reviewing the training of Hong Kong police by UK forces "to ensure that we are playing a part in helping to uphold and not supress the rights of the people of Hong Kong".
“But today’s announcements must be part of a wider strategic approach to dealing with China," she added.
"The Government should accelerate the timetable for Magnitsky sanctions to be imposed on Chinese officials involved in the persecution of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. And UK must work with democratic partners around the world to ensure a coordinated international response that enables BNO passport holders, pro-democracy activists and the people of Hong Kong to travel without the fear of arrest and extradition.”
Boris Johnson had hinted at the Government measures earlier on Monday, telling reporters: "We have concerns about the treatment of the Uighur minority, obviously about the human rights abuses.
"We obviously have concerns about what's happening in Hong Kong and you'll be hearing a bit later on, from the Foreign Secretary about how we're going to change our extradition arrangements to reflect our concerns about what's happening with the security law in Hong Kong.
"We have to think about the the Human Rights the rights of the people of Hong Kong to participate in democratic processes, and people here from Hong Kong and how those changes affect them."
But the PM said the government would not "completely abandon our policy of engagement with China".
"China is a giant fact of geopolitics, it's going to be a giant factor in our lives, in the lives of our children and our grandchildren," he added.
"So we've got to have a calibrated response, and we're going to be tough on some things, but also going to continue to engage."
Hong Kong’s new law clamps down on secession, subversion and terrorism following years of protests and has been condemned by western countries.
Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, warned of "serious consequences" should the Government go ahead with its plans to suspend the treaty.
Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said the Government must ensure a 'lifeboat' system was put in place to ensure safe passage for Hong Kongers who want to come to the UK.
"The UK Government should be accelerating the design of that system and opening local offices to make the scheme as accessible to as many people as it possibly can be," he added.
"The Foreign Secretary must also now take seriously further sanctions against the Chinese regime given the horrific violations of human rights amounting to genocide in Xinjiang. We cannot standby. The UK must work hand-in-hand with international partners to stop these abuses and protect those whose lives are at grave risk."
The UK has already made extended immigration offers to an estimated three million Hong Kongers, and Mr Raab suggested on Sunday other countries would do similar.
He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I think the majority will want to stay in Hong Kong. We judge that that’s what they’d like to.
"Others will go to countries in the region. And one of the things I’ve done since I announced our advice, is talked to our international partners.
"So what you will see is not just the UK making offers on immigration status, as we’ve done, and we are the leaders in this, you’ll see others now following suit, and that’s positive."