In Depth

Reaction: China tension rises as Britain ditches Hong Kong extradition treaty

Agreement shelved amid growing calls for tougher action over persecution of Uighur Muslims

Dominic Raab is suspending the UK’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong as pressure mounts for Downing Street to take a tougher stance against China.

The foreign secretary will tell the Commons today that the agreement is being shelved in response to “a draconian security law” imposed by Beijing that “jeopardises” the former British colony’s judicial independence, says The Times

Under the treaty, which has been in place for more than 30 years, “if someone in Hong Kong is suspected of a crime in the UK then the British authorities can ask Hong Kong to hand them over to face justice - and vice versa”, the BBC explains.

The China-ruled territory also has extradition agreements with 19 other countries, including Canada and Australia, both of which have already suspended their deals.

The plan for the UK to do likewise is “a political decision designed to send another message to Beijing”, says BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley. 

“Sanctions - which could target senior Chinese officials - are an option too,” he writes. “But they are more complicated and likely to take longer.”

Appearing on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Raab accused China of committing “gross” human rights abuses against the East Asian nation’s Uighur Muslims. 

“We are working with our international partners on this,” said the foreign secretary, who described the persecution of the minority group as “deeply, deeply troubling”.

“The reports of the human aspect of it - from forced sterilisation to the education camps - are reminiscent of something we have not seen for a long, long time,” he added.

His comments came after China’s ambassador to the UK launched “a brazen defence of his country’s human rights record” following the widespread circulation of footage showing “shackled prisoners being herded onto trains” in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, The Guardian reports.

After being shown the images during an interview with the BBC’s Marr, Liu Xiaoming said: “I do not know where you get this videotape.”

“Sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners, in any country. Uighur people enjoy peaceful, harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups of people,” Liu added, before insisting: “We treat every ethnic group as equal.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flying into London for talks with Raab and Boris Johnson, but will first meet with “20 backbench MPs who have been pressing for a hard line on China”, The Times says.

The group - which includes Conservative MPs Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis and Damian Green, and Labour MPs Chris Bryant and John Spellar - are backing growing calls in Westminster for a ban Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok.

Duncan Smith, co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, has welcomed the decision to end the UK’s extradition deal as “the right thing to do in response to the Chinese government crackdown on people in Hong Kong”. 

The tweeted message was echoed by Nathan Law, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent young democracy activists, who recently fled to London.

“Talked to many members of the parliament on this issue, and got very strong support on the idea of suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Change is happening,” Law wrote on Twitter.

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