The UK government is planning a series of measures aimed at curbing foreign government infiltration and influence, including investigating the recent attack on a Hong Kong protester at the Chinese consulate and the possible closure of Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes at universities.
Home Office Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised when he ran for leadership of the ruling Conservative Party that “Confucius Institutes pose a threat to civil liberties in many universities in the UK and he will seek to eliminate them.” close. “
He said the government was considering how to respond to the October 16 beating of Hong Kong protester Bob Chan by Chinese consular staff.
“There is no place for those who abuse their diplomatic privileges or the freedoms of this country to oppress the citizens here,” he said in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“The assessment will be presented urgently,” Tugendhat said of the investigation into the attack in Manchester and promised a coordinated response.
Amid a global probe into “overseas service centers” run by Chinese police, some of which have been forced to close by foreign governments for operating outside diplomatic channels, Tugendhat said an upcoming national security law would strengthen the government’s legal powers with foreign agents Governments operating on British soil.
“Coercion, harassment or intimidation in connection with a foreign power interfering with an individual’s liberties will be criminalized under the new foreign interference offense in the draft law,” he said. “Existing criminal offenses against a person, such as B. Assault, may also be compounded with the aggravating factor of government threats in the bill when committed for, in the name of, or with intent to benefit a foreign power.”
He said the bill would also include a foreign influence registration system, under which organizations with close ties to foreign governments would be required to register as agents of a foreign power. Similar measures already exist in Australia and the United States.
British media have reported the existence of three undeclared “service centres” in the UK, including Hendon, Croydon and Glasgow.
Chinese dissidents in exile and the Spain-based human rights group Safeguard Defenders have reported that dozens of such “service centers” operate outside China and that those associated with them harass and threaten dissidents, including forced repatriations.
Newcastle cut ties
Meanwhile, councilors in the northeastern city of Newcastle voted unanimously on Wednesday to end the city’s “twin sister” status with north China’s mining town of Taiyuan.
Move the motion, Liberal Democrat Cllr. Wendy Taylor said the Chinese government under Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping ignored international norms and paid little attention to universal values such as human rights, freedom and democracy, according to a report on the meeting on the Newcastle Facebook page Stands With Hong Kong.
Cllr Jane Byrne, citing a recent Amnesty International report detailing a deteriorating human rights record in China, including unfair trials, intimidation and torture, said she would stand by those fighting for freedom and democracy, the statement said the report.
A spokesman for Newcastle Stands with Hong Kong, who went by the pseudonym K for fear of reprisals against loved ones back home, said many British officials are aware of the seriousness of the Chinese infiltration threat.
“Everyone is very concerned right now about the infiltration by Confucius Institutes and foreign law enforcement agencies, but they have yet to respond,” said K.
K said part of the problem is that many countries feel economically dependent on China.
“The fundamental question is whether other countries are so economically dependent on China that China feels it can ignore international law and human rights laws,” K said. “To continue allowing slow infiltration by China will only broaden its ambitions and sooner.” or later lead to the same situation as we saw with Russia.”
“The international community, while reducing Chinese infiltration, must also reduce its dependence on China,” they said.
UK-based scholar Wang Jianhong said such infiltration is a threat to the international order.
“The UK has been relatively slow to recognize and respond to this threat,” Wang said. “But the fall of Hong Kong and the start of the pandemic in Wuhan, as well as the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, have prompted the UK government to change course.”
“I hope they actually close down the Confucius Institutes, expel the Chinese Consul-General from Manchester, and thoroughly investigate the Chinese Communist Party’s secret police stations,” Wang said.
Analysts have told RFA they expect China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy to continue to solidify after Xi Jinping assumed an indefinite third term amid growing reports of bullying and physical violence by Chinese diplomats abroad.
In response to the attack on Chan, who was dragged into the Chinese consulate in Manchester and beaten by a group of unidentified men during an altercation over a torn protest banner on October 16, the British Foreign Secretary urgently summoned a senior Chinese diplomat.
But protesters and lawmakers said the response hadn’t gone far enough and called for the expulsion of those involved, including Consul-General Zheng Xiyuan, who admitted to pulling Chan’s hair.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.