The UK is expected to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, according to multiple reports, amid a package of measures to be unveiled by foreign secretary Dominic Raab on Monday.
It follows similar moves by the US, Canada and Australia in response to China’s imposition of a tough new national security law on Hong Kong and amid growing tensions with Beijing.
Raab said he would announce the result of a review of extradition arrangements with Hong Kong on Monday, amid mounting concern about the situation.
Nathan Law, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent young democracy activists who recently fled to London, said the extradition suggestion had gained traction in Westminster. He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Iain Duncan Smith, co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, also backed the proposal, tweeting: “This is the right thing to do in response to the Chinese government crackdown on people in Hong Kong.”
Raab told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “I’m going to go to the House of Commons tomorrow to make a further statement on the work we’ve been doing with our partners in government. I’ve said that we’d review a whole range of other considerations. One of the things that we reviewed is our extradition arrangements and I will be updating the house on the conclusion of that review, along with other things that we’ve been looking at, tomorrow,” he said, interviewed on .
The UK has already promised that up to 3 million Hong Kong residents will be offered the chance to settle in the UK, and a path to permanent citizenship, in the wake of Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping and ill-defined national security law on Hong Kong.
However, in what appeared to be a hint that the UK is not preparing to impose unilateral sanctions on China as the US has done, Raab said: “We have said there won’t be business as usual after Covid-19 and we are working with our international partners to get a proper independent review of what happened but we also want to make sure that we’re not slipping into some outdated dogmatic approach.”
China will be high on the agenda when Raab meets his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, in London this week.
Beijing remains angry at the UK government’s decision last week to exclude Huawei from the 5G network, reversing a decision in January allowing it a limited role.
The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said Beijing was still evaluating its response to the Huawei ruling.
Raab threatened to pour further fuel on flames, accusing the Communist regime of committing “gross, egregious human rights abuses” against the country’s Uighur population in the north-western Xinjiang province.
China’s ambassador to the UK flatly denied claims of abuses by Beijing on Sunday, insisting the Uighur people live in “peaceful and harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups”, as he was confronted with footage of shackled prisoners being herded on to trains in Xinjiang.
Liu warned Britain not to get drawn into a “tit-for-tat” confrontation in the way the US had, imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged abuses in Xinjiang, prompting Beijing to sanction a number of US senators and officials.
Raab played down suggestions any such measures were imminent under the UK’s new independent sanctions regime, saying that it took a long time to build a case against any alleged abusers.
He insisted also that Britain wanted a “positive relationship” with China, working with it on issues such as climate change as well as trade and investment.
However, Communist party officials have reportedly warned UK companies operating in China, including Jaguar Land Rover, BP and GlaxoSmithKline, that they could now face retaliation.
There were also reports at the weekend that the the Chinese social media company TikTok had broken off talks to open a global headquarters in Britain.
The government says Hong Kong’s new national security law violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration which was supposed to guarantee Hongkongers’ way of life for 50 years after the handover of the former British colony in 1997.
Pompeo is expected on Tuesday to meet Boris Johnson and Raab, as well as MPs pressing the government to take a harder line on China.