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UK Ratchets Up Criticism of China Over Uighurs, Hong Kong

FILE - Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London, July 1, 2020.
FILE - Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London, July 1, 2020.

Britain and China issued new salvos of criticism against each other Sunday, with the U.K. foreign secretary hinting that he may suspend the U.K.'s extradition arrangements with Hong Kong over China's moves against the city-state.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also accused Beijing of "gross and egregious" human rights abuses against its Uighur population in China's western province of Xinjiang.

In response, the Chinese ambassador to Britain warned that China will deliver a "resolute response" to any move by Britain to sanction officials over the alleged rights abuses.

The comments were the latest signs of sharply increased tensions between the U.K. and China. Issues include China's treatment of its Uighur minority and a new, sweeping national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory that Britain handed over to China in 1997.

Britain's recent decision to prohibit Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from being involved in the U.K.'s superfast 5G mobile network has further frayed bilateral relations.

Raab said Sunday that Britain's government has reviewed its extradition arrangements with Hong Kong and that he plans to make a statement Monday in parliament on the topic.

Earlier this month, Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China's imposition of security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory. Critics see the new law as a further erosion of the rule of law and freedoms that Hong Kong was promised when it reverted to Chinese rule.

Raab added that while Britain wants good relations with China, it could not stand by amid reports of forced sterilization and mass education camps targeting the Uighur population in Xinjiang.

"It is clear that there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on. We are working with our international partners on this. It is deeply, deeply troubling," he told the BBC.

Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador, denied there were concentration camps in Xinjiang during an interview with the BBC and insisted there are "no so-called restriction of the population." When confronted with drone footage that appeared to show Uighurs being blindfolded and led onto trains, Liu claimed there are many "fake accusations" against China.

Beijing was ready to respond in kind should Britain impose sanctions on Chinese officials, Liu added.

"If the U.K. goes that far to impose sanctions on any individuals in China, China will certainly make a resolute response to it," he said. "You have seen what happened between China (and) the United States … I do not want to see this tit-for-tat between China-U.S. happen in China-U.K. relations."

Liu also said Britain "should have its own independent foreign policy, rather than dance to the tune of the Americans like what happened to Huawei."

The criticism echoed comments this week by a Chinese government spokeswoman who accused Britain of colluding with Washington to hurt Huawei and "discriminate, suppress and exclude Chinese companies."