Interview Given by Ambassador Liu Xiaoming to Global Times
18 August 2020
Global Times: With regard to the UK’s recent decisions to change the policy for British National (Overseas) passport holders, ban Huawei from its 5G networks, and suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong indefinitely, what counter-measures will China take?
Ambassador Liu: The UK Government, in disregard of China’s solemn representations, is bent on carrying out political manipulation on the issues of BNO and the extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The Chinese side strongly opposes such acts of the UK side which openly go against its own pledge, violate international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and blatantly interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are internal affairs of China. China will consider refusing to recognize BNO passports as valid travel documents and reserves the right to take further counter-measures.
On the issue of Huawei, the UK Government has contravened its previous decision and banned 5G equipment of Huawei, claiming the company poses “risks” without any evidence. This went against the principles of market economy and rules of free trade, jeopardized China-UK mutual trust, undermined the confidence of Chinese businesses in making investments in the UK, and intoxicated the atmosphere for China-UK business cooperation. The Chinese side will evaluate this decision comprehensively and seriously and take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies.
China-UK relationship has encountered serious setbacks due to the above-mentioned wrong remarks and deeds of the UK side. I have emphasized time and again that China is a partner of the UK, rather than a rival, still less an enemy; China’s development creates opportunities for the UK, rather than challenges, still less threats. A steady and sound China-UK relationship is in the interests of both the two countries and beyond. I hope the UK side will return to an independent, reasonable and pragmatic China policy, and stop going down the wrong path. Otherwise, it will have to bear all the consequences.
Global Times: On the issue of BNO, will China revoke the Chinese nationality or the right of abode in Hong Kong of the Hong Kong residents who have accepted the unilateral arrangements of the UK Government?
Ambassador Liu: It is made clear in the Explanations of Some Questions by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Concerning the Implementation of the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region that all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals, whether or not they are holders of the British National (Overseas) passport. In fact, as early as 1985 when the UK Government adopted the law to create the BNO status, it made the pledge that BNO passport holders who are Chinese citizens residing in Hong Kong shall not have the right of abode in the UK. Now the UK Government has gone back on its words and offered “a route for BNO passport holders to apply for citizenship in the UK”. This decision is purely political manipulation, and its real intention is to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and disrupt the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR. The Chinese side strongly opposes this. We will consider refusing to recognize BNO passports as valid travel documents and reserve the right to take further counter-measures.
Hong Kong has been returned to China and is now a special administrative region of China. Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and brook no external interference in any form. We have urged the UK side, time and again, to recognize the fact that Hong Kong is part of China, immediately right the wrongs, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form. Such interference will be self-defeating.
Global Times: With the UK suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, what impact will it have on China, including Hong Kong? Will it affect the pursuit and arrest of fugitives? Will the Chinese side engage in further communications with the UK side through the diplomatic channel?
Ambassador Liu: The unilateral suspension of the extradition treaty by the UK side under the excuse of the National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR is a blatant interference in China’s internal affairs and severe violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The Chinese side strongly opposes this and reserves the right to take further countermeasures.
The extradition treaty was signed between Hong Kong SAR, with authorization of the Central Government of China, and the UK side, and there has been effective cooperation on law enforcement all along. The recent unilateral move of the UK side will undermine the basis for judicial cooperation between Hong Kong SAR and the UK, hamper cooperation and exchanges between the two sides on law enforcement, and make the UK a “safe haven” for fugitives hoping to escape justice in Hong Kong.
I hope the UK side will have a right and objective understanding of the National Security Law for Hong Kong SAR, right its wrongs, stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs in any form, and take concrete actions to foster favorable conditions for the sustained and sound development of China-UK relationship.
Global Times: In light of the recent situation, do you think the China-UK “Golden Era”, which was unveiled in 2015, has come to an end? If not, do you think it is faced with grave challenges?
Ambassador Liu: The China-UK “Golden Era” was proposed by the UK side during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK in 2015. The Chinese side agreed with the UK side and supported this initiative because we believed that it was an accurate depiction of the development stage of China-UK relationship and served the interests of both countries. China has since then worked with the UK to advance the “Golden Era” of their important relationship.
“Golden Era” should be based on mutual respect, equal treatment and mutual benefit. In particular, the two sides should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and abide by the basic norm of non-interference in international relations. It is, to a large extent, up to the UK side whether the “Golden Era” could continue.
Global Times: How do you see the future of China-UK relationship? Do you think there will be a continuous escalation of tension and serious confrontations between China and the UK, like what happened between China and the United States?
Ambassador Liu: We feel deeply disappointed at the current difficulties and setbacks in China-UK relationship. The UK side should take full responsibility for the state this relationship has got into. China-UK relationship is at an important juncture. The UK side should carefully reflect on its attitude and policy toward China. I think it is extremely important to uphold the following two principles:
The first principle is to abide by the basic norms governing international relations. The UK was the first major western country to recognize New China 70 years ago. Since then, China-UK relationship has kept moving forward despite twists and turns. History and facts prove that as long as the two sides adhere to the basic norms governing international relations, including mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, which are endorsed in the UN Charter, China-UK relationship will make progress; otherwise, it will encounter setbacks, or even retrogression. Recently the UK has made one mistake after another on issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang, blatantly interfering in China’s internal affairs and discrediting China. The Chinese side strongly opposes this. We urge the UK side to faithfully observe the basic norms governing international relations, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop flinging slanders at China.
The second principle is to have a right perception and strategic definition of China. Some British politicians have clung to the “Cold War” mindset and danced to the tune of the United States. They see China as a challenge, a threat and even a “hostile state”, threaten a “reckoning” of the UK’s China policy, and even clamour for a “new Cold War” against China. In particular, the UK Government’s recent change of its decision on Huawei, excluding Huawei from its 5G network, is wrong. This is not only about how the UK sees a Chinese company. More importantly, it is about how the UK sees and deals with China. Does it see China as an opportunity and a partner or a threat and a rival? Does it see China as a friendly country, or a “hostile” or “potentially hostile” state? On these issues of right and wrong, the UK should have a right perception and accurate strategic definition.
The UK aims to build a “global Britain” when Brexit is completed and Covid-19 is over, but it is hard to imagine a “global Britain” that bypasses or excludes China. The UK needs to coordinate and cooperate with China on international and regional issues, such as safeguarding multilateralism, supporting free trade, addressing global challenges such as climate change, and promoting the political settlement of hotspot issues such as the Iran nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and Syria. The UK hopes to enhance mutual support with China in hosting COP26 and COP15 respectively. Bilaterally, the mainstream of the UK society, especially the business community, hopes to deepen cooperation with China. China and the UK have highly complementary strengths and deeply integrated interests. There is a huge demand for cooperation in the areas of economy and trade, financial services, education, and science and technology.
A steady and sound China-UK relationship is not only in the interests of the peoples of both China and the UK, but also conducive to world peace and prosperity. We hope that the UK will return to an independent, reasonable and pragmatic policy on China, and stop going down the wrong path leading to self-defeat.
Global Times: There have been discussions about whether China should impose sanctions on British businesses in China, such as HSBC, AstraZeneca, GSK and Jaguar Land Rover. What is your opinion? Will the Shanghai-London Stock Connect and London’s status as an overseas RMB trading centre be affected?
Ambassador Liu: China remains committed to open and mutually-beneficial cooperation. We oppose politicizing economic issues and will continue to foster a fair, just, open and non-discriminatory business environment for foreign businesses. We think it is wrong for certain countries to abuse the concept of national security, violate the rules in international trade and exclude or suppress other countries or individual companies, and we are strongly opposed to this.
Business cooperation between China and the UK is based on a sound bilateral relationship. There are close connections and mutual influence between business cooperation and bilateral relationship. This is the reason why many people from the British business community have expressed their opposition to and concern over the recent words and deeds of the UK Government.
Recent years have seen remarkable progress in the financial cooperation between China and the UK, with London becoming the world’s largest RMB offshore trading centre and the second largest RMB offshore clearing centre. The Shanghai-London Stock Connect links, for the first time, a Chinese and a major Western capital market. This bears great significance to both China and the UK. These achievements are not only reflections of the strength and status of London in international financial services. They have also benefited from the close relations between China and the UK. A steady bilateral relationship provides a solid foundation and guarantee for sound development of China-UK financial cooperation. Without this foundation, cooperation will be on shaky ground. It is our hope that the UK side will reflect on its recent remarks and moves with regard to China carefully and refrain from doing anything that undermines this very foundation.
Global Times: What, in your view, is the role of the United States in the recent change of the UK’s policy towards China? Do you think the UK has decided on whose side it will take in the rivalry between China and the United States?
Ambassador Liu: The relationship between China and the United States is at a critical juncture. China remains committed to working the US to develop a relationship featuring no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. At the same time, China will firmly defend its sovereignty, security and development interests. It is our hope that the US will head towards the same direction as China, take vigorous efforts to implement the important agreements between the presidents of the two countries, and bring the bilateral relationship back on the track of coordination, cooperation and stability. The steady and sustained development of China-US relationship serves the fundamental interests of the peoples of both countries and meets the aspiration of the majority of the international community. China and the US stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice.
Multilateralism and globalization are the overriding trend of our times and international cooperation is the common aspiration of people of the world. In international relations, different sets of bilateral ties could exist and thrive side by side. It is bound to be unpopular for a certain country to cling to the “zero-sum” and “Cold War” mentality, incite division along ideological lines, form an exclusive coterie and force other countries to choose sides. This will not win people’s heart. China has never sought to change or replace anyone. Nor has it asked other countries to choose sides between China and the United States. China is committed to mutual respect, equal treatment and mutual benefit. It is our hope that the UK will stay independent in its foreign policy rather than dancing to the tune of the US. “Great Britain” cannot be “Great” without independent foreign policies.
Global Times: The US and the UK will sign a free trade agreement soon. What will be the impact on the business interactions between China and the UK? Do you find it necessary to re-consider a China-UK free trade agreement after Brexit?
Ambassador Liu: I do not think the free trade agreement between the US and the UK will have any impact on the business relations between China and the UK. China-UK trade and US-UK trade are different in development stage, structure and complementary strengths. China has a strong production capability in manufacturing, with a complete system of industrial categories. We also have a consumer market of 1.4 billion people. These are unique strengths found in no other places. Reaching free trade agreements with both China and the US will benefit not only the UK, but also China and the US. The two agreements will not pitch China and the US against each other nor make one’s gain the other’s loss.
With regard to the prospects of a free trade agreement between China and the UK, I think this depends, to some extent, on what policy the UK adopts towards China. The UK aims to build a “global Britain” after Brexit, but Britain wouldn’t be “global” if it bypasses or excludes China, an important trading partner and an opportunity for future development. It is our hope that the UK will uphold the principles of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect, resist disruptions from other countries, and work with China to build closer China-UK business ties in the new era.
Global Times: Some British and US politicians and media claim that the Sino-British Joint Declaration is a “legally-binding international treaty” registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations, which cannot be terminated unilaterally, and that the UK has the responsibility to supervise the implementation of the Joint Declaration. How would you respond to this?
Ambassador Liu: Such claim reflects an ignorance of history. To help them brush up on the rudiments of history, I want to emphasize the following facts: The core of the Joint Declaration negotiated and signed between China and the UK is the resumption of China’s exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. The basic policies regarding Hong Kong laid out in the Joint Declaration were proposed by China on our own initiative. They are not China’s commitments to the UK or the so-called international obligations.
China’s position on the Joint Declaration is consistent and clear. After the handover, the Chinese Government governs Hong Kong SAR in accordance with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of Hong Kong SAR, not the Joint Declaration. All the rights and obligations with regard to the UK side in the Joint Declaration have been fulfilled at the handover in 1997 when China resumed exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. The Joint Declaration has eight paragraphs with a total of 1,137 words and three annexes. Not a single word, paragraph or annex gives the UK any responsibility over Hong Kong after its handover. The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of “supervision” over Hong Kong after its handover. Therefore, the UK side should not use the Sino-British Joint Declaration as an excuse to make irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong and interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Global Times: According to British media reports, Nathan Law, an anti-China element seeking to disrupt Hong Kong, and Simon Cheng, a former employee of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong, are both in the UK and they are planning to use London as a base for the opposition forces from Hong Kong and even proposed the establishment of a “Hong Kong parliament in exile”. What is your comment on this? If the UK government allows such activities, how will China respond?
Ambassador Liu: As I said when giving an interview to a British media last month, it would be completely wrong if the UK permits the establishment of this so-called “parliament in exile”, and this will create a new and serious obstacle for China-UK relationship. Such an organization would be an anti-China organization aimed at undermining “one country, two systems”, dividing China and promoting “Hong Kong independence”. If this were allowed in the UK, the UK would seriously violate the basic norm governing international relations, that is, respect for other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. It will also damage China-UK mutual trust and undermine China-UK relationship.
I have urged the UK side, time and again, not to be bent on challenging China’s sovereignty or supporting anti-China forces. Otherwise, China will resolutely strike back.
Global Times: Some western countries, including the UK, have seen Hong Kong as an independent political and economic entity. The Chinese Embassy in the UK recently and repeatedly urged the relevant British politicians to recognize the fact that “Hong Kong has been returned to China”. Where does the wrong perception of these British politicians on Hong Kong come from? How to promote a right understanding on China here in the UK?
Ambassador Liu: The world has entered the 21st century, but some politicians from western countries, including the UK, have left their head in the Cold War years, or even the colonial era. They are locked in the Cold War and colonial mindsets, refuse to view China’s development from an objective and reasonable perspective and harbor anxiety and misgivings about China. On the issue of Hong Kong, they do not want to recognize the fact that Hong Kong has been returned to China. Instead, they see themselves as the so-called “supervisor” and keep making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs. Recently, they hyped up “China threat”, calling China a “hostile” or “potentially hostile” state, threatening a complete “decoupling” from China, and even clamouring for a “new cold war” against China. Such noise, although not representing the mainstream public opinion here in the UK, has created difficulties and disruptions to China-UK relationship.
I think this is due to two “deficits” in the UK’s current China policy, namely, the “understanding deficit” and the “trust deficit”. These are one of the root causes of the current difficulties in China-UK relationship. China and the UK differ in history, culture, social system and development stage. It is natural the two countries do not always see eye to eye. The key to reducing these “deficits” lies in closer contact and communication between the two countries. Only by advocating dialogue instead of confrontation and promoting closer links instead of decoupling can China and the UK enhance understanding, deepen mutual trust, manage and control differences and reduce the “deficits”.