China-Britain trade deal secured, despite UK’s Hong Kong concerns



Stuart Lau | South China Morning Post

China and Britain have clinched £500 million (US$630 million) worth of deals in a high-profile trip by a Chinese vice-premier to London on Monday, despite fears by British trade officials that the talks might be derailed because of protests in Hong Kong.

Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua and British Chancellor Philip Hammond vowed to work together to protect global trade, but not before officials in Whitehall wondered if the public uproar in Hong Kong would scupper a deal they see as a vital boost amid the Brexit uncertainty.

Hong Kong people took to the streets on two consecutive Sundays to protest against a bill that could allow extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China. An estimated 2 million people took part in the most recent march on Sunday, calling for the bill to be scrapped altogether.

The anxiety of officials over the trade deal was compounded by a strongly worded statement by Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary now vying to be Britain’s next prime minister, who called on the Hong Kong government to “listen to the concerns of its people and its friends in the international community and to pause and reflect on these controversial measures”.
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But as soon as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the suspension of the bill, Hunt issued another statement, this time “praising” the decision.

“Whitehall is so concerned about how the two events will affect each other. The foreign office didn’t want to understate the relevance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, while the Exchequer wanted to make sure the deals would be signed,” a source with knowledge of the ongoing developments told the South China Morning Post.

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