LONDON (AFP) – Britain on Monday risked worsening strained ties with China, as it suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in protest at a controversial new security law in the territory.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the widely expected move in parliament, despite Chinese warnings that Britain was making a grave foreign policy error and risked reprisals.
He also announced an extension to Hong Kong of an arms embargo of “potentially lethal weapons” already in force against mainland China for the last three decades.
Diplomatic ties between London and Beijing have been frayed by the security law, which Western powers see as an erosion on civil liberties and human rights in the financial hub.
China threatened unspecified counter-measures after Britain relaxed immigration rules for Hong Kongers with British overseas passports, and the potential of citizenship.
Adding to the tensions have been British criticisms about China’s treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority group, and the blocking of telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G networks.
Raab said Britain wanted to engage constructively with China, acknowledging its “extraordinary transformation” and the key role it had to play in world affairs.
But he said a positive relationship with a country that had international obligations as a global player also included the right to disagree.
The security law had “significantly changed key assumptions underpinning our extradition treaty”, particularly a provision to try certain cases in mainland China, he said.