Government suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China's new national security law

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks

The government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong "immediately and indefinitely" in response to "grave concerns" over alleged human rights abuses associated with China's new national security law.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons on Monday that China's security law does not provide necessary "legal or judicial safeguards".

He said: "The government has decided to suspend the extradition treaty immediately and indefinitely.

"We would not consider reactivating these arrangements unless and until there are clear and robust safeguards which are able to prevent extradition from the UK from being misused under the new national security legislation."

Mr Raab said the government has "grave concerns" about the “gross human rights abuses” taking place in China’s Xinjiang region.

He added: “There remains considerable uncertainty about the way in which the new national security law will be enforced.

"I would just say this: the UK is watching and the whole world is watching.”

Speaking to ITV News, Hong Kong activist Nathan Law who fled to the UK following China's crackdown, said the suspension of the extradition treaty made him feel safer.

The move, which follows the example of the US, Canada and Australia, is set to further increase tensions with Beijing following the decision to  exclude the tech giant Huawei from the UK’s 5G network.

China's UK ambassador Liu Xiaoming has claimed Britain was behaving like a "junior partner" of the US.

Mr Raab said that the government wants to work with China but added it "will always protect our vital interests”.

“There is enormous scope for positive, constructive engagement, there are wide-ranging opportunities from increasing trade to co-operation in tackling climate change, as I’ve said in particular, with a view to the COP26 summit next year which the UK will of course be hosting," he said.

“But as we strive for that positive relationship, we are also clear sighted about the challenges that lie ahead.

"We will always protect our vital interests including sensitive infrastructure and we won’t accept any investment that compromises our domestic or national security.”

Mr Raab also announced measures to extend the arms embargo applied to mainland China since 1989 to Hong Kong.

Mr Raab said: “Given the role China has now assumed for the internal security of Hong Kong and the authority it’s exerting over law enforcement, the UK will extend to Hong Kong the arms embargo that we’ve applied to mainland China since 1989."

Exports to Hong Kong from the UK of lethal weapons, their components or ammunition will be banned including other equipment "which might be used for internal repression", Mr Raab said.

He added that plans for a bespoke immigration route for British Nationals Overseas and their dependants will be set out before recess.

Liu Xiaoming and Dominic Raab. Credit: PA

Mr Raab also pledged the UK will not “buck and bow” to pressure from China to lift the measures outlined.

Responding to a question by Conservative MP David Johnston, Mr Raab said: "We recognise that China will respond and that is why I was very clear about us taking well-reasoned, focused and proportionate measures in response to China’s actions in Hong Kong.

“But we are absolutely clear, we will not, certainly in relation to Hong Kong but also more generally, we will not buck and bow.

“We will look for the positive, but we will prepare for the resilience of our economy, our security and indeed the resilience of our values.”

In Beijing, the UK was accused of violating international law, grossly interfering with China’s internal affairs and warned the country not to not further damage UK-China relations.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Wenbin, said: “We strongly condemn these actions. We urge the UK to take no more steps down the wrong path, so as to avoid further damage to China-UK relations.”