Those who had predicted that after Brexit, an eager China would queue up to sign a Free Trade Agreement with the UK, may need to think again (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images).


 

By Amit Roy

IF CHINA breaks Its word over Hong Kong, can it be trusted over Huawei? The answer would seem to be no.

There are two opinions on whether the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei should be given the green light to help build the UK’s 5G network.

As prime minister, Theresa May appeared willing to accept Chinese assurances that Huawei would not spy on Britain or pull the plug on Britain’s communications network if ordered by Beijing to do.

Others in May’s cabinet less trusting of the Chinese included the former defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, who was sacked for allegedly leaking what went on in cabinet to The Daily Telegraph.

Now, it seems those who urge caution in dealing with the Chinese appear to be in the right, judging from the way that promises made over Hong Kong have not been kept.

Britain and China agreed on the principle of “one country, two systems” in a solemn treaty signed between the two sides when the British lease ended and the colony was handed over to the People’s Republic of China with effect from July 1, 1997.

But a friend who lived for six years in Hong Kong until recently tells me China has not honoured either the spirit or the letter of the agreement made with the UK.

One example he gave was that in primary schools, English was being replaced by Mandarin as the main language of instruction. This would eventually mean that in courts people who spoke no Chinese would be unable to defend themselves properly.

He also claimed that every year 100,000 people from mainland China settled in Hong Kong as a way of changing the place from the inside, “as the Chinese once did in ‘Met”.

He concluded that there was no way that the Chinese government would show flexibility over Hong Kong because Beijing was terrified that the contagion of democracy and freedom might also infect Tibet, Taiwan and even parts of the mainland.

To be sure, the UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was running to be prime minister, but he touched a raw Chinese nerve by urging Beijing not to be exploit the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as a “pretext for repression”.

The Chinese ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, was summoned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and given a dressing down after he called a press conference and alleged Hunt was backing those who had trashed the legislative council in Hong Kong: “I think it is totally wrong for Jeremy Hunt to talk about freedom – this is not a matter about freedom, it’s a matter about breaking laws in Hong Kong.

“It’s very disappointing when the senior officials of his calibre show support of these law-breaking people. We all remember what Hong Kong was like 22 years ago under British rule: there was no freedom, democracy, whatever.

“I do hope that the British government will realise the consequences and refrain from further interference from further damaging the relationship.”

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for Beijing’s ministry of foreign affairs, said Hunt appeared to be “basking in the faded glory of British colonialism and obsessed with lecturing others. I need to re-emphasise that Hong Kong has now returned to its motherland.”

Those who had predicted that after Brexit, an eager China would queue up to sign a Free Trade Agreement with the UK, may need to think again.