The UK government is set to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China’s imposition of a tough new national security law, reports have said.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons on Monday confirming the move, which would infuriate Beijing.
On Sunday, he hinted he was preparing further measures as he accused China of committing “gross, egregious human rights abuses” against the Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang province.
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It follows the government’s decision to exclude the tech giant Huawei from the UK’s 5G network, in a major U-turn just six months after approving the tech giant’s involvement .
The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said Beijing was still considering its response but warned Britain not to get drawn into a “tit-for-tat” confrontation.
Communist Party officials have reportedly warned UK companies, including Jaguar Land Rover, BP and GlaxoSmithKline, that they could now face retaliation.
TikTok, the Chinese social media company, was also said to have suspended its plans to open a global headquarters in Britain.
Mr Raab has played down suggestions that the UK would impose sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged abuses in Xinjiang, like the US.
He insisted also that Britain wanted a “positive relationship” with China, working with it on issues like climate change as well as trade and investment.
However the government has said China’s new national security law violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration which guaranteed Hong Kong’s way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years until 2047.
The UK has already offered a path to British citizenship for three million Hongkongers eligible for an overseas passport, a move which enraged Beijing.
Canada and Australia have already suspended their extradition treaty with Hong Kong, while the US is believed to be preparing a similar measure.
Mr Raab is due to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Press Association