US-China row: Mike Pompeo holds talks in UK amid rising China tensions

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Updated: Jul 21, 2020 8:25 PM

Pompeo described his talks in London as being constructive and candid”, and ranging “from 5G telecommunication to our negotiations for a US-UK free trade agreement”.

Pompeo described his talks in London as being constructive and candid”, and ranging “from 5G telecommunication to our negotiations for a US-UK free trade agreement”. (Reuters image)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held candid discussions in London with one of America’s closest allies on Tuesday, amid growing tensions between the West and China. Hong Kong and human rights figured high on the agenda as Pompeo met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK leader’s office said.

The session came just hours after Britain suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and blocked arms sales to the former British territory angering Beijing after China imposed a tough new national security law. China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, warned on Twitter that the UK should bear the consequences of damaging bilateral relations. He described the new measure as gross interference on the part of the UK in Chinese internal affairs.

Pompeo described his talks in London as being constructive and candid”, and ranging “from 5G telecommunication to our negotiations for a US-UK free trade agreement”. Pompeo will also meet with senior members of Johnson’s Conservative Party who blocked plans to give Chinese telecommunications company Huawei a role in the UK’s new high-speed mobile phone network.

The US has lobbied its allies to shun Huawei because it says the Chinese government could use the company’s technology to spy on Western nations. Huawei denies the allegations and argues that US protectionism was behind the move.

Britain followed the United States, Australia and Canada in suspending extradition agreements with Hong Kong, which became a special administrative region of China after the UK returned control of the territory to Beijing in 1997.

Events in Hong Kong are particularly sensitive for Britain because China agreed to a one country, two systems policy intended to protect the economic and social traditions of the territory for 50 years after the handover. Britain and its allies believe the security law imposed by Beijing threatens that agreement because it restricts free speech and erodes the judicial independence of Hong Kong.

The law makes crimes such as promoting secession punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. It also allows some cases to be tried on the mainland which means people extradited to Hong Kong could end up being tried in mainland courts.

The UK has already accused the Beijing government of violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration under which Hong Kong was returned to China, and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to 3 million eligible residents of the territory.

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