UK suspends extradition treaty, imposes arms embargo on Hong Kong over security law

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A demonstrator shows a British National (Overseas) passport as another waves a colonial-era Hong Kong flag during a lunchtime protest at the International Finance Center (IFC) shopping mall in Hong Kong, China | Bloomberg
A demonstrator shows a British National (Overseas) passport as another waves a colonial-era Hong Kong flag during a lunchtime protest at the International Finance Center (IFC) shopping mall in Hong Kong, China | Bloomberg


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London: The U.K. suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and placed it under an arms embargo in moves likely to significantly exacerbate a diplomatic spat with China after it imposed a new security law on the former British colony.

The moves are “a necessary and proportionate response,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons on Monday. The suspension will stay “unless or until there are clear, robust safeguards which are able to prevent extraditions from the U.K. being misused under the new national security legislation,” he said.

Though halting the extradition pact and suspending arms sales is largely symbolic, it marks the latest condemnation by Boris Johnson’s government of Chinese conduct in Hong Kong, and will trigger anger in Beijing. It comes less than a week after the U.K. banned China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from next-generation wireless networks on security grounds and follows London’s invitation to as many as 3 million Hong Kongers to apply for British citizenship.

“This embargo means there will be no export of weapons from the U.K. to Hong Kong of potentially lethal weapons and ammunition,” Raab said. “It will also mean a ban on any equipment, not already banned, that might be used for internal repression such as shackles, intercept equipment, firearms and smoke grenades.”

Speaking to reporters in Beijing on Monday before Raab’s statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused the U.K. of “brutal” meddling in China’s internal affairs and urged the British government to halt its “wrong words and actions.”

The diplomatic row with China has come at an inopportune time for Johnson, who is trying to reset the U.K.’s ties with the rest of the world after divorce from the European Union this year. His government wants to secure free-trade deals with countries around the world as it seeks to deliver the benefits it promised from Brexit.

But the prime minister is facing extreme pressure on his China policy both from lawmakers in his own Conservative Party and from overseas, especially U.S. President Donald Trump.

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