(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 4th July 2019) London, Uk – –
Foreign secretary says UK will always put its principles first, as Hong Kong row escalates
Jeremy Hunt has refused to rule out imposing sanctions on China and expelling its diplomats in an escalating row over Hong Kong.
The foreign secretary and Tory leadership candidate warned Beijing that the UK would always put its principles before commercial interests, as he urged China to honour the “one country, two systems” agreement over Hong Kong.
Tensions between the UK and China have risen since Hunt backed demonstrators in Hong Kong who have been protesting against an extradition law.
On Wednesday China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, accused Hunt of gross and unacceptable interference after Hunt urged China not to use the protests as “pretext for repression”.
Hunt ratcheted up the row on Thursday by repeating his concerns and insisting the UK was keeping its options open on how it would respond.
“The way to deal with that violence is not by repression, it is by understanding the root causes of the concerns of the demonstrators that freedoms that they have had for their whole life could be about to be undermined by this new extradition law,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked twice whether he planned to impose sanctions on China or expel diplomats, Hunt refused to rule out either.
He said: “No foreign secretary would ever spell out precisely what would happen in a situation like that. You need what Bill Clinton called ‘strategic ambiguity’.”
Speaking a day before ballot papers are expected to arrive at the homes of 160,000 Tory members, Hunt lashed out at editorials in state-run media accusing him of putting “selfish” political interests above good relations with China. Hunt said he was not surprised by Beijing’s reaction and claimed: “China specialises in this kind of language.”
He added: “Hong Kong is part of China, we recognise that. We are simply saying that we also have an agreement with the People’s Republic of China, and we would expect that to be honoured.
“China is a country that has benefited massively from the application of a rules-based international system. And so to not to honour this very important agreement between the United Kingdom and China, of course, would have consequences for China as well as for the UK.”
Hunt said the situation in Hong Kong was “very, very serious”. He added: “We are a country that has championed democracy, the rule of law, civil rights across the world for much of our history. We see the situation as very worrying. And we’re just asking very simply for that agreement that we have with China, from 1984 to be honoured.”
Asked whether the UK had too many economic interests at stake to pick a fight with China, Hunt said: “If you’re asking me about the the trade-off between our trading relations and our principles, in the end this is a country that has always defended the values we believe in and we think it’s a very important principle that international agreements are honoured.”Profile
Jeremy Hunt's Tory leadership campaign
Hunt played down his pledge on Wednesday to allow a vote on bringing back fox hunting. He insisted this would not be his priority and added: “The law is not going to change on fox hunting.”
He said: “There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons and I don’t see there ever being one. I was just restating the position in our manifesto from 2017 that there should be a free vote if it ever looked like that majority would change.”
By Matthew Weaver