July 21, 2020 / 9:34 AM / 19 days ago

China vows 'forceful counter-attack' in escalating row with Britain over Hong Kong

LONDON/BEIJING (Reuters) - China threatened a “forceful counter-attack” on Tuesday in response to Britain’s announcement that it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong following Beijing’s introduction of a national security law for the former British colony.

New spokesman for Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament the extradition treaty would be suspended immediately and an arms embargo would be extended to Hong Kong.

“We will not consider re-activating those arrangements, unless and until there are clear and robust safeguards, which are able to prevent extradition from the UK being misused under the new national security legislation,” Raab said.

The decision appeared to infuriate Beijing.

“China will make a forceful counter-attack to the UK’s wrong actions,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a daily news conference on Tuesday.

“China urges the UK to give up its fantasies of continuing colonial influence in Hong Kong and immediately correct its mistakes,” he said.

London has been dismayed by a crackdown in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus outbreak.

Raab said he would extend a longstanding arms embargo on China to include Hong Kong, meaning no exports of weapons or ammunition and a ban on any equipment which might be used for internal repression, like shackles and smoke grenades.

Australia and Canada suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong earlier this month. U.S. President Donald Trump has ended preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by the end of 2027.

China - once courted as the prime source of investment in British infrastructure projects from nuclear to rail - has accused Britain of pandering to the United States.

Britain says the new security law breaches the guarantees of freedoms, including an independent judiciary, that have helped keep Hong Kong one of the world’s most important trade and financial centres since 1997.

Officials in Hong Kong and Beijing have said the law is vital to plug gaps in national security exposed by recent pro-democracy and anti-China protests. China has repeatedly told Western powers to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Reporting by Andy Bruce and William James in London and Aakriti Bhala in Bengaluru; Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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