Former UK premier to visit Taiwan
Truss discussed the upcoming trip in a statement on Tuesday, using the opportunity to take a jab at Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory.
“Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy. I’m looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasingly aggressive behavior and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing,” she said, adding that she would meet with senior Taiwanese officials during the visit.
While Truss resigned as prime minister last year after just 45 days in office – making her stint at 10 Downing Street the shortest in UK history – she has become an increasingly vocal critic of China since then, delivering several speeches in recent weeks that put a heavy emphasis on Beijing.
Asked about the trip, a UK government spokesperson told the Guardian that officials “wouldn’t get involved in the independent travel decisions of a private citizen who is not a member of the government.”
The Foreign Office was also sure to add that while the UK has “no diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” it maintains “a strong, unofficial relationship, based on deep and growing ties in a wide range of areas, and underpinned by shared democratic values.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Truss’ travel plans in a statement of its own, saying she would visit the island between May 16 and 20, during which time she will tour “cultural and economic facilities,” give a speech, and “interact with people from all walks of life.”
The former PM will deliver her address at an event organized by the Prospect Foundation – a local thinktank headed up by Taiwan’s ex-foreign minister – which said the speech will be titled “Taiwan: on the frontline of freedom and democracy.” The Chinese government sanctioned the foundation last month, saying it promoted “Taiwan independence” and separatism.
Beijing has yet to comment on Truss’s upcoming visit, but has frequently denounced such trips to Taiwan, insisting nations should not keep direct diplomatic relations with the island. Last year, a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi triggered a harsh reaction from China, which launched massive military drills in the airspace and waters around Taiwan, including an exercise simulating a full blockade. RT.COM
UK investment minister’s visit to HK ‘positive sign’ for China ties, but it must let go of interference
A snapshot of Hong Kong Photo: VCG
A visit by UK’s Minister of State in the Department for Business and Trade Dominic Johnson to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the first official visit by a senior British official to the city in five years, is welcomed by observers as a signal that shows London’s eagerness to engage deeper with China on economic cooperation after the fallout of Brexit.
However, experts also called on the UK to let go of its interference in Hong Kong, as flirting with China’s core interest will likely thwart potential cooperation.
Photos on Johnson’s Twitter account published on Monday showed him meeting with Christopher Hui, Hong Kong’s secretary for financial services and the treasury “to discuss our ongoing work to remove market barriers and increase UK-Hong Kong trade.”
He also met with CK Hutchison Chairman Victor Li and co-managing director Canning Fok to discuss the company’s investment plans in Britain.
In an opinion piece published in Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post on Tuesday, Johnson wrote that the “UK will continue to engage robustly and constructively” with China where their interests converge.
John Lee, chief executive of the HKSAR, said on Tuesday that Hong Kong welcomes officials from any country to visit the city.
Johnson’s visit reflects the UK government’s high recognition of China’s vast market and bright economic prospects, Lü Xiang, director for research at the Chinese Institute of Hong Kong, told the Global Times. The expert said that UK investment minister’s opinion piece laid bare the country’s hunger for foreign investment and its hope that Hong Kong will be an important source of investment.
Ties between China and the UK soured after the UK consistently interfered and smeared China’s policies in Hong Kong. No high-level British official had visited China since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took office last October.
Brian Davidson, British consul general to Hong Kong and Macao SARs, said earlier this month that London hopes to see a new chapter in ties with the city, especially on trade and investment, and for difficult issues to be subjected more to honest behind-the-scenes discussions with less megaphone diplomacy.
His remarks echoed those of Britain’s Foreign Minister James Cleverly, who said last month that Britain should not “pull the shutters down” on China, as it would be counterproductive to national interest.
After the relationship spiraled down for a few years, the UK began to realize that decoupling from China is counterproductive for its national interest, and wants to re-engage with Beijing after seeing the trend of “relationship renewals” between China and European countries, said Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, referring to frequent engagements between Chinese and European officials recently.
Apart from discussions of economic and investment cooperation, Johnson claimed that the UK “will also stand up for our values and be clear about our right to act when Beijing breaks its international commitments or abuses human rights.”
Lü said that as Hong Kong is playing a bridge for China and the UK to re-engage, the city is also key to assuaging tensions between the two countries, as long as London stops pointing a finger at Hong Kong’s affairs.
“Moreover, the UK government should retract its previous wrongdoings on Hong Kong, such as the BNO passport scheme.”
Asked whether the scheme would be extended beyond 2025, Britain’s next general election, when it is due to be reviewed according to the British Home Office, Davidson said last week that attempting an answer would be “crystal ball gazing,” and he admitted that he cannot make any pledges that extend beyond the coming poll.
Another factor that is swaying the UK’s policy on China, according to Lü, is the US, which is sparing no effort in marshalling its allies to go up against China, and it is luring those allies to decouple from China economically.
Lü noted that Johnson’s opinion piece in the Hong Kong media, which discussed boosting economic cooperation with China, is a “signal that the UK has already deviated from the US hopes on decoupling from China. GT
RT.COM / GLOBAL TIMES