Tory backlash as UK minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan meets with a Chinese official accused of overseeing the ‘forceful return’ of dissidents to the country
- Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with Liu Jianchao causing a backlash among Tories
- Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is being accused of being too lenient on China
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has been accused of being too lenient on China after a senior British minister met a notorious Beijing official now banned from meeting German politicians.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan held talks with Liu Jianchao – who is accused of overseeing the ‘forceful return’ to China of dissidents living in the UK – in June.
Last week German counterintelligence warned politicians not to meet with China’s International Liaison Department, which is headed up by Mr Liu, as the organisation ‘acts as an intelligence agency’.
But Foreign Office sources suggested that Indo-Pacific minister Ms Trevelyan ‘robustly engaged with’ Beijing during the meeting at the Great Britain-China Centre Senior Leadership Forum – an approach which Mr Cleverly has defended.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the Foreign Secretary told him to ‘get used to it’ when pressed over approving such meetings – an account disputed by sources close to Mr Cleverly.
Sir Iain said: ‘This sort of thing makes us look ridiculous – we seem to have an open-door policy towards China for fear of offending them. These sorts of people aren’t allowed in Germany, for example – why are we welcoming them? We are quickly becoming China’s poodle.’
Anne-Marie Trevelyan held talks with Liu Jianchao – who is accused of overseeing the ‘forceful return’ to China of dissidents living in the UK – in June
Mark Sabah, of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said: ‘[Mr Cleverly] is desperate to look like a statesman. Instead of taking the opportunity to reshape Britain’s relationship with Beijing and protect our national security, he is replicating the approach we used to have with Russia which led to so many issues.’
Last week Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution issued a safety notice for German politicians, warning them against all contact with the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China.
Laura Harth, of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: ‘This agency is an intelligence service acting on behalf of an adversarial regime that seeks on the one hand to influence narratives and policies abroad in line with its goals, and on the other seeks to crack down on dissent and critical voices.
‘These methods represent the blueprint for the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]’s growing transnational repression, including within the UK. These are not activities anyone in a democracy should ever get used to.’
Her report for human rights organisation Safeguard Defenders suggested Mr Liu ‘bears responsibility for the forceful return to China of thousands of individuals through illegal methods’.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has been accused of being too lenient on China after a senior British minister met a notorious Beijing official now banned from meeting German politicians
It also said he helped ‘institute a wanton climate of fear within overseas diaspora communities, aimed at silencing dissent and accounts of gross human rights violations’. Defending Mr Liu’s visit, Rishi Sunak said Britain’s China policy ‘makes provision for engagement’.
At a debate on the issue last month, Ms Trevelyan said: ‘We consider it important to engage with our Chinese counterparts, where appropriate, to protect UK interests and build relationships.
‘I therefore was comfortable sitting down with Liu Jianchao for a political dialogue… because I believe it is important to have such conversations. In every diplomatic relationship, being frank is possible only if the parties are in the room together.’
Last year, Mr Cleverly said that giving up on dialogue with China would be ‘to give up on addressing humanity’s greatest problems’. He added: ‘We must engage with China where necessary and be unflinchingly realistic about its authoritarianism.’
However a report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has warned that China has penetrated ‘every sector’ of the UK’s economy. The Daily Mail has also exposed how China allegedly sent a ‘spy’ to infiltrate a House of Commons briefing by Hong Kong dissidents.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘The UK will engage robustly and constructively with China, not as an end in itself, but to manage risks and produce results.’
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