By James Moules
THE Chinese Communist Party “is not bluffing” on its threats to the UK amid disputes over Huawei and Hong Kong, experts have said.
Last week, the British government announced that Huawei 5G equipment would be banned from the UK network.
Speaking before Parliament, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We have concluded that it is necessary and indeed prudent to commit to a timetable for the removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G network by 2027.
“Let me be clear: this requirement will be set out in law by the telecoms security Bill. By the time of the next election, we will have implemented in law an irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks.”
The status of Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G system – and potential security risks – had long been a matter of contention.
The announcement came after Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming issued a stark warning, saying: “Some UK politicians regard China as a threat. The truth is China wants to be UK’s friend and partner. But if you treat China as a hostile country, you would have to bear the consequences.”
Dr Andreas Fulda, senior fellow at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute, told Redaction in no uncertain terms that China will follow through with these threats.
He said: “The Chinese Communist Party is not bluffing. When the British government abandons Huawei for 5G the party-state will punish the UK.
“Chinese officials have hinted that they may pull out of the Hinkley Point C project [plans for a nuclear power station in Somerset, England], although this would also end the CCP’s ambition to penetrate the overseas energy market more widely.”
Dr Fulda’s sentiments are shared by Professor Steve Tsang, Director at the SOAS University China Institute, who wrote in a recent Guardian column: “Should we take the ambassador’s threat seriously?
“Yes. When the Australians raised issues about Chinese interference in their politics Beijing responded by restricting imports from Australia.
“When Canada allowed its courts to deal with a US extradition request against the daughter of Huawei’s founder for a criminal offence, Beijing held two Canadian citizens hostage.”
The move comes as diplomatic relations between China and the UK are rapidly deteriorating.
In a recent statement before parliament, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Let me be clear: we want to work with China. There is enormous scope for positive, constructive engagement.”
He added: “However, as we strive for that positive relationship, we are also clear-sighted about the challenges that lie ahead. We will always protect our vital interests, including sensitive infrastructure, and we will not accept any investment that compromises our domestic or national security.”
READ MORE: Thousands sign petition calling on UK government to sanction China over oppression of Uyghur Muslims
The two powers also exchanged stern words over the situation in Hong Kong.
The UK suspended its extradition treaty and offered millions of Hong Kongers a path to British citizenship in the wake of the introduction of a new security bill in the special administrative region.
Ambassador Liu stated that the UK was interfering in Chinese internal affairs and warned again of consequences for Britain.
Upon its handover from Britain to China, Hong Kong was given considerable autonomy from the mainland under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy.
But critics say the new security bill will severely curtail this autonomy.
Dr Fulda told Redaction: “The end of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong should be seen as a deliberate strategy by Xi Jinping to expand mainland China’s growing security state and to challenge the international rule-based order.”
He added: “Putting on the screws on Hong Kong and targeting Taiwan means that US-China relation are in for a tailspin. But this is not just about greater power rivalry between China and the US.
“Imposing a National Security Law by dictat means that Hong Kong is now at the
forefront of a systemic conflict between an increasingly totalitarian China and western
“This is why the United Kingdom should reach out to likeminded countries in the world and help forge a coalition of liberal democracies which are willing and able to constrain the authoritarian excesses of the Chinese Communist Party.”
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