Beijing today warned the UK it will ‘pay the price’ for treating China like a ‘hostile country’ amid rising tensions over Hong Kong, coronavirus, Huawei and human rights abuses.
China’s ambassador to the UK said Britain will have to ‘bear the consequences’ of its foreign policy decisions and that will mean losing the benefits of being Beijing’s ‘partner’ unless it changes tack.
Liu Xiaoming also claimed some British politicians appear to be ‘clamouring for a new Cold War’ as he insisted China wants to be the UK’s ‘friend’.
Mr Liu’s comments are likely to prompt a further deterioration in relations as an ongoing diplomatic war of words showed no signs of abating.
The UK and China have clashed repeatedly in recent months.
The Government announced earlier in July that it was U-turning on the decision it made in January to grant Huawei a role in building Britain’s new 5G network.
The Chinese tech giant has now been banned from the network and all of its existing 5G technology will be stripped out by 2027 over national security concerns.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s decision to impose a controversial national security law on Hong Kong prompted the UK to announce a path to citizenship for three million Hong Kongers with British National (Overseas) status.
The Government has also accused China of ‘gross and egregious’ human rights abuses against its Uighur population in Xinjiang province while also backing calls for an international probe into the origins and handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak.
These flashpoints have prompted Beijing and the UK to fire numerous broadsides at each other but Mr Liu insisted today that China has never threatened Britain.
He told a press conference: ‘I want to set the record straight. We made no threats. We threatened nobody.
‘We just let you know the consequences. People regard some of my remarks as threatening words. I think they quote my remarks out of context.
‘I said China wants to be friends of the UK. China wants to be the UK’s partner.
‘But if you do not want to be our partners and our friends, you want to treat China as a hostile country, you will pay the price.
‘It is very clear. You will lose the benefits of treating China as opportunities and as friends and you will bear the consequences of treating China as a hostile country.’
Mr Liu accused Britain of ‘reckless slanders’ over comments relating to the treatment of the Uighur population.
He attacked the Government for criticising China’s ‘Xinjiang-related policies’ as he claimed the UK had ‘interfered in China’s internal affairs by raising the so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang’.
‘These actions have seriously poisoned the atmosphere of China-UK relations,’ he added.
He said that the Chinese government does not ‘want to threaten, challenge or replace anything’ as he took aim at UK critics of Beijing’s actions.
‘History has proved and will continue to prove that China is always a defender of world peace, a contributor to global development and upholder of international law,’ he said.
‘A stronger China will make the world a more peaceful, stable and prosperous place.
‘However, some British politicians cling to the Cold War mentality and uphold the remarks of anti-China forces outside and inside the UK.
‘They play up the so-called China threat and see China as a hostile state, threatening a complete decoupling from China, and even clamour for a new Cold War against China.’