Politics

U.K. suspends Hong Kong extradition treaty and extends arms embargo in rebuke to China

Key Points
  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced in a speech to the House of Commons on Monday that the extradition treaty would be suspended until further notice.
  • The U.K. will also extend the arms embargo that has been applied to mainland China since 1989 to Hong Kong, suspending all exports of potentially lethal weaponry, its components and ammunition.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives for a COBRA meeting at 10 Downing street in central London on April 9, 2020.
OLGA AKMEN | AFP via Getty Images

The U.K. has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid rising tensions with China over its new national security law in the former British colony.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced in a speech to the House of Commons on Monday that the treaty would be suspended indefinitely, accusing China of a "clear and serious violation of the U.K.-China joint declaration, and with it a violation of China's freely assumed international obligations."

He also vowed to extend the arms embargo that has been applied to mainland China since 1989 to Hong Kong, suspending all exports from the U.K. to Hong Kong of potentially lethal weaponry, its components and ammunition, along with any equipment that might be used for "repression."

Beijing has denied violating international law and has accused the U.S. and U.K. of trying to destabilize the region by meddling in Chinese affairs.

The U.K.'s move comes amid widespread condemnation of Beijing's security law, which stipulates that acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion are punishable by life sentences, following a prolonged period of pro-democracy protests in the city.

"I am particularly concerned about Articles 55 to 59 of the law, which give mainland Chinese authorities the ability to assume jurisdiction over certain cases and to try those cases in mainland Chinese courts," Raab told the House.

"The national security law does not provide legal or judicial safeguards in such cases, and I am also concerned about the potential reach of the extra-territorial provisions."

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Raab added that the British government will not consider reactivating its prior arrangements with Hong Kong "unless and until there are robust safeguards which are able to prevent extradition from the U.K. being misused under the new national security legislation."

China's embassy in London wasn't immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC, but earlier on Monday Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that Britain should avoid taking further steps down the wrong path.

He added on a daily briefing call that China would react resolutely to actions that interfere in the country's internal affairs, according to Reuters.

The treaty, which had been in place for more than 30 years, meant that someone in Hong Kong who was suspected of a crime in the U.K. could be handed over to face justice at the British government's request, and vice versa. The U.S., Canada and Australia have all suspended similar treaties since the imposition of the new security bill.

The U.K. has also offered visa rights to 3 million Hong Kong citizens in the wake of the bill's passage, with Western powers accusing China of clamping down on the city's autonomy.

Relations between London and Beijing have continued to sour on multiple fronts, inflamed further last week by the U.K. decision to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from the country's 5G network.