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Jeremy Hunt eyes 'golden era' of ties with China ahead of first major Foreign Secretary trip

2 min read

Britain is committed to enhancing its "golden era" in relations with China after Brexit, Jeremy Hunt has said ahead of his visit to Beijing.

The Foreign Secretary will mark his first major overseas trip by seeking to boost economic ties with the superpower, while facing pressure at home to address concerns over human rights in Hong Kong.

Mr Hunt will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, before holding talks with counterpart Wang Yi on topics including multilateralism, free trade and cooperation on climate change, development and security.

The leaders are also set to address non-proliferation and enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea.

Meanwhile the Government says the pair will explore ways to build on economic ties between the UK and China, as Britain prepares to quit the European Union.

However the Foreign Secretary’s visit comes as former Cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind, ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown and a number of foreign policy experts warned that fears around freedoms in Hong Kong have "increased and intensified".

The intervention comes as officials are thought to be considering a ban on the Hong Kong National Party over their push for independence for the city.

In a letter, the five signatories said ministers needed to promote the former UK territory’s right to a degree of autonomy, as agreed under the Sino-British joint declaration.

"This agreement underpins the special trading relationship that the United Kingdom has with Hong Kong because ‘one-country, two-systems’ ensures that it has the robust rule of law, freedom of information, labour rights, intellectual property rights, and transparency which our businesses need," they said.

Mr Hunt's visit comes just weeks after taking over the post from Boris Johnson, who sensationally resigned in protest at the Prime Minister's Cabinet Chequers agreement on Brexit.

Speaking ahead of the visit, the new Foreign Secretary said: “The UK and China are both major powers with a global perspective.

“As the UK leaves the EU and becomes ever-more outward-looking, we are committed to deepening this vital partnership for the 21st century.

“The UK-China Strategic Dialogue is an important opportunity to intensify our cooperation on shared challenges in international affairs, ranging from global free trade to non-proliferation and environmental challenges, under the UK-China Global Partnership and ‘Golden Era’ for UK-China relations.”

The diplomatic blitz in Beijing follows Theresa May's move to strike new commercial deals with China worth over £9bn earlier in the year.

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