China’s ambassador to the UK has warned against allowing “Cold War warriors” to damage relations between Beijing and Britain.
Rows over Hong Kong, the ban on tech giant Huawei playing a role in the 5G network, and British criticism of human rights abuses in Xinjiang have soured the relationship in recent weeks.
Beijing’s ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, acknowledged that the rows had “seriously poisoned the atmosphere” of Sino-British relations.
He rejected claims of abuse against Uighur Muslims, condemned the decision on Huawei, and warned the UK not to interfere in Chinese internal affairs over Hong Kong.
In an online press conference, Mr Liu said: “China respects UK sovereignty and has never interfered in the UK’s internal affairs.
“It is important the UK will do the same – namely, respect China’s sovereignty and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, which are China’s internal affairs, so as to avoid further damage to the China-UK relationship.”
The imposition of a new national security law led to the Government opening the door to British National (Overseas) passport-holders in the territory to come to the UK, and the suspension of extradition arrangements.
China has threatened not to recognise the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document.
Donald Trump’s White House has pushed allies to distance themselves from China, and US sanctions ultimately led to the UK’s U-turn on Huawei’s involvement in 5G.
Boris Johnson’s Government has also come under pressure from hawkish MPs on the Tory benches calling for a tougher stance.
But Beijing’s representative in the UK said the country should follow its own foreign policy.
Mr Liu said: “It’s our hope that the UK would resist the pressure and coercion from a certain country and provide an open, fair, transparent and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese investment so as to bring back the confidence of Chinese businesses in the UK.”
He added that once the Brexit and Covid-19 issues are dealt with, “there will be unlimited prospects for China-UK co-operation in areas of trade, financial services, science and technology, education and healthcare”.
“It is hard to imagine a global Britain that bypasses or excludes China,” he said.
“Decoupling from China means decoupling from opportunities, decoupling from growth and decoupling from the future.”
He said he hoped the two countries have “enough wisdom and capabilities” to manage their differences “rather than allowing anti-China forces and Cold War warriors to kidnap the China-UK relationship”.
“Great Britain cannot be great without independent foreign policies,” he said.
Mr Liu devoted a large part of his press conference to addressing “rumours and lies” about the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, with a series of propaganda videos aimed at rebutting Western criticism.
He suggested that “so-called victims” of persecution including forced sterilisation were either separatists or “actors trained by anti-China forces in the US and other Western countries”.
In a further sign of the deteriorating relationship with China, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned a decision to block 12 pro-democracy candidates from standing in Hong Kong’s legislative council elections in September.
“It is clear they have been disqualified because of their political views, undermining the integrity of ‘one country, two systems’ and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the joint declaration and Hong Kong’s basic law,” he said.
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