Johnson says he backs Hong Kong people ‘every inch of the way’

READING, England (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, who could be Britains prime minister by the end of the month, said he backed the people of Hong Kong every inch of the way and cautioned China that the “one country, two systems” should not be cast aside.

Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, visits the Thames Valley Police Training Centre in Reading, Britain, July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Pool

Britain has repeatedly pressed China to honour its commitments to protect freedoms in Hong Kong after police fired tear gas to disperse protesters rallying in the former British colony against a now-suspended extradition bill.

Hong Kong has been rocked in recent weeks by the largest protests in China since crowds demonstrated against the bloody suppression of pro-democracy activists in and around Beijings Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

“The people of Hong Kong are perfectly within their rights to be very sceptical, very anxious about proposals for extradition to the mainland that could be politically motivated, that could be arbitrary and could infringe their human rights,” Johnson told Reuters in an interview.

“So yes I do support them and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way,” the former foreign secretary said. “And I would stress to our friends in Beijing that the one country, two systems approach has worked, is working and should not be cast aside.”

Late on Monday, hundreds of protesters in the territory besieged, and broke into, the legislature after a demonstration marking the anniversary of its 1997 return to Chinese rule.

The turbulence in Hong Kong was triggered by an extradition bill critics say will undermine Hong Kongs much-cherished independent judiciary and give Beijing powers to prosecute activists in mainland courts, which are controlled by the Communist Party.

Britains relations with China under outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May have also been complicated by a disagreement with Washington over whether to ban Chinas Huawei from 5G telecommunications networks as a security risk.


Britains National Security Council discussed Huawei in April and a preliminary decision was made to block it from all core parts of the 5G network but to give it restricted access to non-core parts.

That angered some in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and raised concerns among some allies in the Five-Eyes security alliance which comprises the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Johnson said Chinese companies were welcome in Britain “but you would not expect the UK to do anything to compromise its vital national security infrastructuRead More