Downing St reviewing Hong Kong agreement over China ‘gross interference’ claim

Downing Street has confirmed it is reviewing the UK’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong as relations with China hit a new low over Beijing’s crackdown on protests in the territory, and moves to limit Chinese tech giant Huawei’s role in the British 5G telecoms system.

Protesters against the new national security law march and gesture with five fingers, signifying the "Five demands - not one less" on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong. Picture AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Number 10 said the agreement was being reconsidered with the former British colony following the imposition of a restrictive security law. The UK government opened up a route to British citizenship for up to three million British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong, angering the Beijing government.

Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming defended the law that clamps down on liberties as necessary to “prevent, suppress and punish collusion with a foreign country”, and accused London of “gross interference” and “political manipulation”.

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At a virtual press conference, Mr Liu also accused some British politicians of portraying China as a “threat” or a “hostile country” when discussing Huawei’s role in the 5G network.

“We want to be your friend, we want to be your partner, but if you want to make China a hostile country you have to bear the consequences,” he said.

A short while later, Downing Street urged China not to interfere if British National (Overseas) nationals sought to come to the UK and said Britain is “also reviewing extradition arrangements with Hong Kong”.

“We are currently assessing the national security law and its legal ramifications in terms of extradition with Hong Kong,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman added.

“There are already extensive extradition safeguards in the UK. The courts are required to bar a person’s extradition to any country if it would be incompatible with their human rights or if the request appears to be motivated by their political opinion.”

The widely criticised ­security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong makes activities deemed subversive or secessionist punishable by imprisonment, and is seen as targeting anti-government demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said yesterday that he has received a National Cyber Security Centre report on Huawei and will be discussing it with the Prime Minister.

Mr Dowden said the decision to permit Huawei limited access to the 5G network is not “fixed in stone”, meaning a uUturn could be on the horizon. Sanctions announced by the US in May in a bid to cut the firm off from international semiconductor supplies could have a “significant impact on the reliability of Huawei equipment and whether we can use it safely”, he added.

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