China's envoy to London laments 'Cold War mentality' over Hong Kong protests

A protester waves the Union Jack flag inside the Legislative Council building during a demonstration against the Chinese government on July 1, 2019. PHOTO: DPA

LONDON (REUTERS) - China is not interested in a diplomatic war with Britain but rejects the "Cold War mentality" it has seen from some British politicians over Hong Kong, China's ambassador to London said on Sunday (July 7).

There has been an escalating war of words between China and Britain following mass protests in Hong Kong against a now suspended Bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.

Asked whether Beijing would intervene directly, ambassador Liu Xiaoming told BBC TV that China was fully committed to the "one country, two systems" agreement and that he had full confidence in Hong Kong's ability to resolve the situation.

He said it was the British government that was interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs and trying to "obstruct the legal process".

Liu was summoned to the British foreign office earlier this week following his comments that "colonial" Britain should keep its "hands off Hong Kong".

Hong Kong was under British rule for almost 150 years until 1997. "We are not interested in diplomatic war with the UK, ... we are still committed to this golden era between our two countries," he said on Sunday, but added that the language used by some British politicians was "Cold War mentality language".

In her first few months in office in 2016 Prime Minister Theresa May hailed "a golden era" of Sino-British relations, a phrase both countries have continued to use since.

But Britain's relations with China under May, who is due to step down later this month, have also been complicated by a disagreement with Washington over whether to ban China's Huawei from 5G telecommunications networks as a security risk.

Liu said he could promise "100 per cent" that Huawei would not pass information back to the government in Beijing.

"Huawei is a good company, it is a leader of 5G. I think it you reject Huawei you will miss enormous opportunities. I think they are here for win-win cooperation they are not here to spy on people," he said.

Hundreds of protesters in the former British colony besieged and broke into the legislature last Monday (July 1) after a demonstration marking the anniversary of return to Chinese rule.

Critics say the extradition bill would undermine Hong Kong's much-cherished independent judiciary and give Beijing powers to prosecute activists in mainland courts, which are controlled by the Communist Party.

Liu told the BBC that Hong Kong had received no instructions or orders from Beijing to introduce the bill. He rejected that it would make it easy to extradite people to China from Hong Kong as the legislation included safeguards such as prohibiting extradition for religious or political beliefs.

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