London: Senior lawmakers will seek to use a visit to London by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to press Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take an even harder stance on China.
A day after the U.K. banned arms sales to Hong Kong and suspended its extradition treaty with the former British colony, Pompeo will meet with members of Parliament on Tuesday who want to see sanctions on Chinese officials and the Asian superpower cut from Britain’s nuclear power program.
Johnson’s government has pleased President Donald Trump’s administration in recent weeks as it blocked telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co. and took action over Hong Kong, but has stopped short of the kind of sanctions imposed on individuals and companies by Washington. While Pompeo’s goal is not to ask for more, according to people familiar with his plans, the MPs will try to get him to carry their demands to his meeting with Johnson.
“For decades we’ve turned a blind eye to China’s democratic deficit, its human rights violations, in the hope that it would mature into a global, responsible citizen. That clearly hasn’t happened,” Tobias Ellwood, a member of Johnson’s Conservative Party who is scheduled to meet Pompeo, told the House of Commons on Monday. Britain needs “a strategic overhaul of our foreign policy in relation to China,” he said.
Johnson is seeking a balance as he tries to reset the U.K.’s ties with the rest of the world after divorce from the European Union. His government wants to deliver the benefits it promised from Brexit by securing trade deals across the globe while at the same time being seen as a beacon for freedom.
And, facing Britain’s worst recession for three centuries as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, ministers know taking on China may come at a cost.
“In taking these measures, we recognize that China will respond,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Monday after announcing the latest measures. “We will not buck and bow. We will look for the positive, but prepare in terms of the resilience of our economy, our security and, indeed, our values.”
Monday’s curbs were in response to a new security law introduced in Hong Kong last month and followed an invitation from Johnson for as many as 3 million Hong Kongers to apply for British citizenship, a move which sparked fury in Beijing.
China accused the U.K. of acting as a “catspaw” for the Trump administration and Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters Monday that London should halt its “wrong words and actions.”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said he will use the meeting with Pompeo to raise TikTok, a video app the U.S. is considering banning over its alleged links to the Chinese government. Reports at the weekend said the company had suspended talks over building its global headquarters in the U.K. after the Huawei decision.
“I’ll be bringing up TikTok. It’s definitely up for grabs now,” Duncan Smith said in an interview. “I’ll be telling the secretary of state that America can use the U.K. as a sounding board and together lead the free world into a repudiation of China on its human rights and industrial abuses.”
Pompeo’s trip to Europe, in which he will visit the U.K. and Denmark, will reward countries that are seen as on the side of the U.S. over China. At the same time it will seek to stiffen the resolve of those, including Germany and France, that the administration doesn’t see taking a hard enough line, according to people familiar with the secretary of state’s plans. –Bloomberg