UK defends China actions after calls to get tough
Britain Sunday defended its measured response to an incident in Manchester when Chinese diplomats were accused of beating up a Hong Kong protester.
Anti-China hardliners in the ruling Conservative party have demanded expulsions of the diplomats involved, accusing the UK government of appeasing Beijing.
But Foreign Secretary James Cleverly insisted that it was right to await a police investigation into the Manchester incident from October, rather than acting on the basis of widely shared video.
“Our diplomatic decisions will always be based on rule of law and due process,” he told BBC television, drawing a contrast to other countries that might act without evidence.
“We will make sure our response is robust but is demonstrably based on rules,” he said, after the diplomats were accused of dragging the protester into the consulate grounds to beat him up.
Cleverly said that similarly, the government needed more evidence on reported “secret” Chinese police stations operating on UK soil.
Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States have already clamped down after reports said that China was using such outposts to spy on and intimidate its nationals overseas.
Citing Xinjiang, Hong Kong and development loans to poorer countries, Cleverly said that “we have seen some really, really inappropriate behaviour, unacceptable behaviour” from China.
But he also stressed the scope for partnership with Beijing on issues such as climate change, as the UK tries to find a more nuanced approach to the world’s second-largest economy.
A fortnight ago, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the “golden era” of relations with China was over, but that his government would pursue “robust pragmatism” in dealing with global competitors.
“China is an incredibly challenging country on the international stage,” Cleverly said, ahead of giving a speech Monday touting the need for post-Brexit Britain to look beyond its traditional allies.
When he led the country out of the European Union, then prime minister Boris Johnson touted a “Global Britain” seeking new partnerships further afield.
But the concept remains a work in progress, in trade as well as security, and Britain is meanwhile getting hammered economically with inflation running at double digits.
The UK is ready to make “investments of faith” with Latin American, Asian and African countries that were not “traditional partners” in the past, Cleverly will say, according to his office.
“The UK offer will be tailored to their needs and UK strengths, spanning trade, investment, development, defence, technology and climate change,” Cleverly is to say.
“This will be backed up with a reliable source of infrastructure investment,” he will add, as the G7 club of rich nations tries to counter China’s own debt-fuelled development aid.
“We will show strategic endurance, willing to commit for the long term.”