British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that his government would change its extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid worries about a new national security law imposed by Beijing on the former British colony.

“We obviously have concerns about what’s happening in Hong Kong,” Johnson in an interview with ITV News, adding that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would explain “how we are going to change our extradition arrangements to reflect our concerns about what’s happening with the security law.”

The decision comes as London and Beijing find themselves at increasing odds over a variety of issues, including Britain’s move to bar Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G wireless networks and growing public anger in Britain over the treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in China.


Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves 10 Downing Street, London in April. Britain’s foreign secretary hinted Sunday he may move to suspend the U.K.’s extradition arrangements with Hong Kong, and accused Beijing of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses against its Uighur population in China’s western province of Xinjiang. AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file

On Sunday, China’s ambassador to Britain was interviewed on the BBC, where he was pressed on footage that appeared to show blindfolded Uighurs being forced onto trains. “There is no such concentration camps in Xinjiang,” Liu Xiaoming said. “There’s a lot of fake accusations against China.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to Britain this week for a two-day visit, with China and Hong Kong expected to be a topic of discussion as he meets with British leaders.

The British government has had an extradition treaty with Hong Kong for decades. Under such laws, Hong Kong authorities can ask Britain to extradite anyone accused of a crime in the city and vice versa.


But the new national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong this month drew increasing worries that the law could see those extradited from Britain facing draconian punishments. Canada and Australia have already suspended similar treaties this month.

Residents of Hong Kong, which had been a part of China since 1997, enjoyed a relatively large amount of freedom of speech and other political liberties under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” framework. But under the new laws, the city’s 7.5 million population is under the same speech restrictions as the mainland.

Under these laws, anyone deemed guilty of subversion could potentially face life imprisonment.

In response, Johnson’s government has said it would offer residency rights and a potential path to U.K. citizenship for as many as three million Hong Kong citizens. China condemned the move, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian telling Britain to “stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s internal affairs.”

London and Beijing had increasingly warm ties only a few years ago, with many in Britain looking toward trade with China as a key part of the country’s post-European Union economic feature. But that has changed as concerns about Hong Kong and other issues grew.

Britain announced last week, it would suspend new deployments of Huawei equipment in its fledgling high-speed 5G network, in line with requests from the United States which said that the Chinese technology company was too close to the Chinese government and posed a national security threat.


The move accompanied a growing concern among the general public about Chinese intentions, with polling data from this year suggesting many Britons wanted a harder line on the country after the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ambassador Liu’s appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday prompted an angry response from some British public figures. The footage was later aired on China’s state-run television station CGTN, though the sections about the Uighur video were not shown.

Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain’s Labour opposition party, said Monday that suspending the extradition treaty was a “step in the right direction,” but added that Johnson’s government should sanction Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses.

“Some of the actions of the [Chinese] government are deeply concerning and we can’t turn a blind eye,” Starmer said in a video posted to his Twitter account.

Johnson said Monday that he did not want to become “a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China,” but that his government had “serious concerns” about China that could not be ignored.

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