“GOLDEN ERA OVER”
A senior Chinese diplomat was summoned to the foreign office last month after his consulate colleagues in Manchester, northwest England, were accused of beating up a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester.
The incidents have fuelled political pressure in Britain on the new government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to get tough with China.
But Sunak is treading a fine line between defending freedoms and antagonising the world’s second-biggest economy.
In a speech on Monday, he said the so-called “golden era” of UK-China relations trumpeted by former prime minister David Cameron was “over”.
But Sunak also called for “robust pragmatism” in dealing with Britain’s competitors, disappointing critics who want him to go further in confronting Beijing.
Separately on Tuesday, the UK ousted Chinese nuclear firm CGN from the construction of its new Sizewell C nuclear power station, which will now be built only with French commercial partner EDF.
That came after UK government departments were ordered last week to stop installing Chinese-made surveillance cameras at “sensitive sites”.
The week before, a Chinese company was forced to divest most of Britain’s biggest semiconductor maker, Newport Wafer Fab.
Sunak’s spokesman declined to say if national security factors drove the decision on CGN.
But he told reporters: “Certainly we think it’s right that the UK has more energy security, energy independence.”