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Hong Kong crackdown looms over visit to Beijing by new UK foreign secretary

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Hong Kong crackdown looms over visit to Beijing by new UK foreign secretary

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Photo: Reuters/Hannah McKay

Newly installed UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt arrives in Beijing today for the 9th annual China-UK strategic dialogue.

The UK is desperately seeking to boost its external relations before Brexit, but today’s visit comes amid pressure on the government to raise the issue of Chinese interference in Hong Kong. A move by Beijing earlier in the week to ban the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party from elections resulted in an unusually strong response from the UK defending the autonomous region’s freedoms.

A bipartisan group of British MP’s have written to Hunt pressing for a strong public statement from the UK during his visit to Beijing. However, as co-chair of the strategic dialogue and as a key figure in the UK’s efforts to redevelop ties with China, it is highly unlikely that Mr Hunt will raise the issue publicly.

Instead, Hunt’s trip is expected to result in a commitment to expanding strategic and defence cooperation between the UK and China in the medium-term. Human rights and political freedoms in Hong Kong are expected to take a backseat compared to expected bilateral defence cooperation announcements and potential new belt and road investment in the UK.

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