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China’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network and nuclear energy programme should be questioned after “aggressive” actions towards the UK, Labour has said.
Signalling a much tougher stance on Beijing from Labour, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Times Radio Britain needs “far greater strategic independence” and should not be “handing over large chunks” of infrastructure to companies with links to the Chinese state.
It comes as the Hong Kong crisis deepened this week when Chinese president Xi Jinping imposed tough new national security legislation in the former British colony.
Speaking during PMQs on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said the legislation “constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration”.
He has also taken the extraordinary step offering a path to British citizenship to nearly three million people from Hong Kong.
But there is growing opposition to the deal the UK government has struck with Chinese tech giant Huawei to help build the 5G infrastructure amid fears the company has links to the Jinping’s government.
Nandy said the UK should dump the 5G deal and said state-owned Chinese firm CGN should also be excluded from plans to finance nuclear energy plant Hinckley Point, in Somerset.
Speaking to Times Radio presenter John Pienaar, Nandy said: “We need far greater strategic independence from China, which means that we need to have home-grown alternatives for our 5G network and our nuclear power.”
She went on to say: “I don’t think we should be handing over large chunks of our energy infrastructure, especially our nuclear energy infrastructure, to a country that’s behaved in such an aggressive way towards the UK and the people of Hong Kong in recent weeks.”
After it was suggested Nandy was saying China should be “excluded entirely” from the process, she tweeted: “I didn’t say this. I said the UK needed to develop home grown alternatives, a proper assessment of the national security implications and maintain constructive engagement with China as part of a more strategic approach.”
Announcing the potential change to immigration law, the prime minister told MPs the law “violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and is in direct conflict with Hong Kong basic law”.
The UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Anyone born in the territory before then is eligible for a British National (Overseas) passport - or BNO.
The new law, which took effect on Tuesday night, makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.
Any person taking part in secessionist activities, such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags urging for the city’s independence, is in violation of the law regardless of whether violence is used.
Johnson’s intervention came after the first arrests were made under the law, including one person said to have displayed a sign with the Union Jack and calling for Hong Kong’s independence.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab accused Beijing of a “grave and deeply disturbing” breach of the treaty which “threatens the strangulation” of Hong Kongs’s freedoms.