Since Beijing imposed a new security law in Hong Kong towards the end of June, Sino-British tensions have been escalating. On June 20th, the UK government announced that it will suspend its extradition treaty with the former British colony. The treaty, which was established more than 30 years ago, meant that the UK and Hong Kong could hand over British or Hong Kong citizens suspected of a crime committed in either one of those countries. With the new security law, London fears that the treaty could result in someone that Britain extradites to Hong Kong actually being sent to Mainland China for trial.
Research conducted by us at Redfield & Wilton Strategies on the 22nd of July in the UK indicates that a large majority (58%) of respondents agree with the UK Government’s decision to suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
Announcing the decision, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that while the UK “wants a positive relationship with China,” he considered Beijing’s new Hong Kong national security law to be a “serious violation” of the country’s international obligations.
Our findings indicate that those who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 General Elections are somewhat more likely to approve the decision (66%) than those who voted for Labour (56%). The move, however, has been welcomed by MPs across the political spectrum. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, for instance, said Labour supports the government’s decision.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also announced that the arms embargo that has applied to mainland China since 1989 will be extended to Hong Kong. This extension will ban all exports of potentially lethal weapons, such as firearms, and equipment used for repression, such as shackles, from the UK to mainland China and now Hong Kong for fear of misuse.
We found that a significant majority of respondents (66%) agree with the government’s decision to extend the arms embargo to Hong Kong.
Similarly to our finding above, those who voted for the Conservative party in 2019 were more likely to agree with the decision (74%) than those who voted for Labour (65%).
Importantly, both announcements – which are to be implemented with immediate effect – came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The US has indeed put pressure on the UK to adopt a harsher stance towards Beijing. Earlier this month, the UK had already decided to ban Huawei from building the UK’s 5G network over security fears, despite having agreed to it earlier this January – a move backed by Washington. Research conducted by us following the government’s ban indicates that over half (55%) of the UK public approve of the decision to ban Huawei.
Dominic Raab also took the opportunity to express his concerns over Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region: “It is clear that there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on,” stated Raab. When asked whether they were aware of the situation, we found that a large proportion of the public (48%) is not aware of the recent developments concerning Uyghur Muslims in China. 52% of respondents were aware of the situation.
It is believed that roughly one million Uyghurs are detained in so-called “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. Recently, new research has suggested that Uyghur women are forced to be sterilised as an attempt to limit the population growth.
“The UK is watching and the whole world is watching,” concluded Mr Raab. Our research indicates that the UK public is indeed watching and that a large majority of them support the government’s stance towards China. Research conducted by us earlier this month points to mounting concerns over China, with a majority of the UK public viewing Beijing as more of a threat than an ally to the UK.