Boris Johnson, who could be Britain’s prime minister by the end of the month, said he backed the people of Hong Kong every inch of the way and cautioned China that “one country, two systems” should not be cast aside.
“The people of Hong Kong are perfectly within their rights to be very skeptical, very anxious about proposals for extradition to the mainland that could be politically motivated, that could be arbitrary and could infringe their human rights,” Johnson told Reuters in an interview during a visit to a police training center in southern England on Wednesday.
“So yes I do support them and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way,” the former foreign secretary said. “And I would stress to our friends in Beijing that the ‘one country, two systems’ approach has worked, is working and should not be cast aside.”
Late on Monday, hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong stormed the Legislative Council after a demonstration marking the anniversary of the city’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
The uproar was triggered by an extradition bill critics say will undermine Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and give Beijing powers to prosecute activists in mainland courts, which are controlled by the Communist Party.
Britain’s relations with China under outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May have been complicated by a disagreement with Washington over whether to ban China’s Huawei from 5G telecommunications networks as a security risk.
Britain’s National Security Council discussed Huawei in April and a preliminary decision was made to block it from all core parts of the 5G network but to give it restricted access to non-core parts.
That angered some in the administration of US President Donald Trump and raised concerns among some allies in the Five-Eyes security alliance which comprises the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Johnson, 55, said Chinese companies were welcome in Britain “but you would not expect the UK to do anything to compromise its vital national security infrastructure”.
On Brexit, Johnson, who has pledged to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, said he did not think the British parliament would stop the country from leaving even if there was no divorce agreement.
“What I want is a sensible Brexit that is supported by both sides of the channel but we have got to come out by October 31 and get it done, get it done by then at the latest,” he said.
“Don’t forget we are staring down the barrel now of political extinction, the Conservative Party, it is very difficult situation unless we get this thing over the line.”
He is vying with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt for the top job. The results of a vote by around 160,000 members of the Conservative Party on who should be their leader and next prime minister will be announced on July 23.
– Contact us at [email protected]