Beijing to Britain

Hong Kong, Chinese Embassy in London, Jardines, Swire, HSBC and Standard Chartered, UK Sanctions list

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There seems to be universal agreement that the UK needs an updated ‘China Strategy’. This would inform Government and Whitehall thinking, provide the necessary clarity to businesses operating between both countries, and help outline Britain’s ambitions on the global stage.

In its absence, political views on what this strategy should be are polarised. At its simplest, two loose schools of thought have emerged in Westminster. One calls for a fundamental reset of British relations with China. Any forward relationship must take place through a Western values system, championing human rights over trade. The other school pushes for a realpolitik approach; while the so-called ‘Golden Era’ may be over, it is better to keep China at the table through diplomacy and trade - without these, the UK has no leverage or bargaining chips. It’s worth noting that neither school believes that an enriched Chinese middle class will steer the country towards democracy.

The majority of China-centric politicians in the UK can roughly be placed into one of these schools, although their views often change depending on the issue at play. Crucially overlooked is the presence of a handful of key advisors and campaigners, who have played a significant and influential role in forcing the Government’s hand on China.

And so ‘Beijing to Britain’ was born - a weekly overview of the ebbs and flows of this discussion, and how it impacts politics, the private sector and society.

As always: tips, feedback, and your views to BeijingToBritain@protonmail.com.


Politics

  • Hong Kong

  • Chinese Embassy in London

  • Universities and China

Business

  • Jardine Matheson

  • Standard Chartered

  • CGTN sanctioned

Society

  • Who’s on the sanctions list?


First, a quick look at this week for China in Parliament

  • 77 mentions of China

  • 1 mention of Xi Jinping

  • 78 mentions of Hong Kong

  • 6 mentions of Uyghurs

  • 0 mentions of CCP

  • 10 mentions of Magnitsky

  • 588 out of 650 MPs (90.4%) have a Twitter account.



Who’s asking what?

Order! Order!

Some of the more notable questions asked of the Government this week

  • Tim Loughton asked “the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what requests for access have been made by British Embassy and Consular officials in China to (a) Tibet and (b) Tibetans held in confinement; which of those requests for access were permitted; and if he will make a statement.”

  • Jim Shannon askedthe Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to reverse the decision taken by China to ban the broadcast of BBC World News in that country.



Spotted

Pressure on Ireland’s sovereign wealth fund, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF). Controlled and managed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), the fund has come under scrutiny for potentially having links to Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang, China, the Times reports.

Don’t forget - there’s currently an inquiry underway in Westminster to examine the British companies using forced labour in their supply chains in Xinjiang.

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Politics

Hong Kong, Chinese Embassy in London, Jo Johnson report

Hong Kong in the spotlight

As the Two Sessions wrapped up, MPs in Westminster grilled the Government over what steps it was taking to preserve the electoral independence of Hong Kong in light of some of the comments emerging from Beijing.

A series of questions concerning the territory filled the Foreign Secretary’s inbox as the week dawned, and on Wednesday, the speaker granted an Urgent Question to Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) member Layla Moran. What followed was fairly typical - IPAC (and China Research Group (CRG)) MPs trying to extract answers from the Government as to why, in their view, no meaningful action had been taken over China’s continued campaign on the city.

We have edited some of the key engagements for brevity below:

Layla Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs if he will make a statement on the planned reforms to Hong Kong’s electoral system by the Chinese National People’s Congress.

Nigel Adams (Minister for Asia): The United Kingdom is deeply concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and the erosion of rights enshrined under the Sino-British joint declaration. In response to these worrying developments, the United Kingdom has already taken decisive action. This includes offering a bespoke immigration path for British nationals overseas, suspending our extradition treaty with Hong Kong indefinitely and extending our arms embargo on mainland China to Hong Kong. The United Kingdom has led international action to hold China to account. As recently as 22 February, the Foreign Secretary addressed the UN Human Rights Council to call out the systematic violation of the rights of the people of Hong Kong, making it clear that free and fair legislative elections must take place with a range of opposition voices allowed to take part.

On the question raised by Layla Moran, this week meetings of China’s National People’s Congress are taking place behind closed doors. We understand that the agenda includes proposals for changes to Hong Kong’s election processes. Although the detail is yet to be revealed, these measures might include changes to the election of the Chief Executive, the removal of district councillors from the Chief Executive election committee and the possible introduction of vetting for those standing for public office to ensure that they are described as patriots who govern Hong Kong. Such measures, if introduced, would be a further attack on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms. [N.B., these measures were introduced less than 24 hours later].

Ahead of possible developments this week, the United Kingdom has raised our concerns, including with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hong Kong Government and the Chinese embassy in London, as have many of our international partners. The Chinese and Hong Kong authorities can be in no doubt about the seriousness of our concerns. Given recent developments, including the imposition of the national security law last year, the imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in November and the mass arrests of activists in January, we are right to be deeply concerned. We are seeing concerted action to stifle democracy and the voices of those who are fighting for it.

There is still time for the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to step back from further action to restrict the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers, and to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. We will continue working with our partners to stand up for the people of Hong Kong and hold China to its international obligations, freely assumed under international law, including through the legally binding Sino-British joint declaration.

Layla Moran: This Government have a duty to the people of Hong Kong to guarantee their rights and the integrity of their democratic institutions. The proposals made at the National People’s Congress spell the end of democracy and of one country, two systems in Hong Kong, and are another blatant breach of the Sino-British joint declaration. In response to my last urgent question on this, the Minister told the House that the UK

“will stand up for the people of Hong Kong”, and

“hold China to its international obligations.”—[Official Report, 12 November 2020;
Vol. 683, c. 1051.]

Well, here we are again. Almost every prominent member of the democratic movement is in jail. The BBC has been banned in China. Our ambassador has been rebuked just yesterday, and now free and fair elections are being erased. Surely by now, any red line that might have existed has been well and truly crossed.

On Hong Kong, China behaves like a bully, and bullies only understand words when they are followed by concerted action. Does the Minister really believe that it is going to step back? Will the Government now impose Magnitsky sanctions and other measures on the officials responsible, such as Carrie Lam and Xia Baolong? Sanctions were applied in the cases of Belarus and Alexei Navalny. Why there and not here, when we have a direct duty of care? Will the Government take this case to the International Court of Justice? It is up to us to lead that international co-ordinated effort to hold China to account. What conversations has the Minister had with our allies to join us in any actions we take?

Stephen Kinnock: China’s growing presence in the UK’s critical national infrastructure clearly has implications for our own national security. What assessment has the Minister made of the role of the China General Nuclear Power group, which owns one third of Hinkley Point, but has been blacklisted in the US for stealing nuclear secrets?

The Conservative party is deeply divided over China, but we cannot afford any more dither and delay. Will the Minister work across Government to undertake an audit of the UK’s relationship with China and come back with a clear strategy to replace their failed golden era policy? What steps has the Minister taken to deliver a co-ordinated international response to China’s assaults on democracy and human rights and, finally, where on earth are those Magnitsky sanctions?

Chris Bryant: I find this so frustrating. We come back time and again, and we hear exactly the same old words: “We’re not allowed to speculate about using the Magnitsky sanctions.” We do not want anybody to speculate; we want them to use them. It is like they are z, the unnecessary letter. It is like they are an appendix that we are never prepared to use for any bodily function. We should be using them. To be honest, it feels as if the Government are completely two-faced on this—not individual Ministers, but the Government—because one day the Government say, “Yes, it’s terrible what’s happening in Hong Kong. Yes, it’s terrible what’s happening in Xinjiang province,” and the next day the Prime Minister says that he is “fervently Sinophile”. Frankly, we should be calling this out with a great deal of urgency, and we should be using every single tool in the box, so please Minister do not give us all the old stuff all over again. Just get on and do it.

Tan Dhesi: It is clear that Conservative MPs are deeply divided over how to respond to the Chinese Government’s increasingly belligerent policies and actions, from its assault on democracy in Hong Kong, to the genocide of the Uyghurs, to its mistreatment of minorities and its aggression on the Indian border and in the South China sea. This Government are increasingly out of step with opinion in all parts of the House, so does the Minister agree that there is an urgent need for a cross-departmental strategy—it is long overdue—for our engagement with China? If so, what specifically is he doing to take that forward?

The entire transcript can be read here. On Thursday, Lords debated the same question following the news earlier that morning that the NPC had voted to impose sweeping changes to Hong Kong's political system. Transcript of that here. Finally, on Saturday morning Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab issued a statement:

Beijing’s decision to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong’s electoral system constitutes a further clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is part of a pattern designed to harass and stifle all voices critical of China’s policies and is the third breach of the Joint Declaration in less than nine months. The Chinese authorities’ continued action means I must now report that the UK considers Beijing to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Joint Declaration - a demonstration of the growing gulf between Beijing’s promises and its actions. The UK will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong. China must act in accordance with its legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

This came alongside a G7 statement:

We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in expressing our grave concerns at the Chinese authorities’ decision fundamentally to erode democratic elements of the electoral system in Hong Kong. Such a decision strongly indicates that the authorities in mainland China are determined to eliminate dissenting voices and opinions in Hong Kong.

The package of changes approved by the National People’s Congress, combined with mass arrests of pro-democracy activists and politicians, undermines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. The package will also stifle political pluralism, contrary to the aim of moving towards universal suffrage as set out in the Basic Law. Furthermore, the changes will reduce freedom of speech which is a right guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The people of Hong Kong should be trusted to cast their votes in the best interests of Hong Kong. Discussion of differing views, not silencing of them, is the way to secure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.

We call on China to act in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration and its other legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, as provided for in the Basic Law. We also call on China and the Hong Kong authorities to restore confidence in Hong Kong’s political institutions and end the unwarranted oppression of those who promote democratic values and the defence of rights and freedoms.

One for the diary - on Monday 22 March, there will be an oral question in the Lords discussing the “Role of British judges in courts in Hong Kong and plans to prevent such judges from participating in such courts.” This follows pressure on UK judges to exit Hong Kong. The Times reports:

Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, and Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC, a former justice secretary and the shadow attorney-general, have called for the ten UK judges on the Hong Kong bench to step down. A joint statement said their presence “now serves only to legitimise a compromised political and legal system”.

“While it had been hoped that the continuing role of UK judges could help preserve judicial independence and the rule of law in the face of the actions of the Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities, the sustained campaign to undermine democracy has fundamentally changed the context,” Nandy and Falconer said.

It had become “increasingly clear that the national security law, the wider actions to arrest and intimidate opposition figures and the latest decision of the National People’s Congress are fundamentally prejudicing the political and legal system in Hong Kong”.

That’s also the confirmed day for the Trade Bill to return to the Commons, wherein genocide amendments will be discussed. A busy day indeed.

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Smooth diplomacy

Another busy week at the Chinese Embassy and a chance for us to highlight what we believe to be the first public outing for the new Chargé d'Affaires a.i., Yang Xiaoguang. Yang appeared on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on Thursday morning to discuss the changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system with Nick Robinson. In an abrasive couple of minutes, he said that:

In Hong Kong, we’ve seen too many political frictions over the past years - the victims are the whole public of the Hong Kong people.

Actually the CPC’s not as you define in the Western media. All we’re doing is for the benefit of the whole Chinese people.

It is our firm willingness to safeguard our interest at any cost. And don’t underestimate our strong will to defend our interests, as well as our dignity,

Sanctions won’t work, and sanctions are actually against the international relations. China is now the number two largest economy in the world, and we’re the largest trading partner for more than 120 countries, and also we are doing very good things around the world. We don’t deserve sanctions, and sanctions will have no weight.

[When asked about the viral images of Uyghur prisoners being held a train station, which Ambassador Liu discussed on the Andrew Marr show last year:

What was reported by BBC - you know, in China it’s called the British Biased Corporation, there are too many fake news.

Off to a smooth diplomatic start - listen here from 2hr 33mins for the full show, and read an archived copy of the Embassy’s remarks here. The Embassy also published a lengthy response (archived here) to a BBC Radio 4 programme “The Disinformation Dragon”, which discussed China’s use of fake news, Wolf Warrior diplomacy, and Covid-19 among other topics.

Finally, a couple of minutes before this briefing arrived in your inbox, the Embassy released a statement in response to the G7 and Foreign Secretary’s remarks on Hong Kong.

The relevant politicians from the above-mentioned countries and groups, including the UK, have confused right and wrong, slung groundless slanders at China, and blatantly interfered in China’s internal affairs. The Chinese side expresses its strong condemnation and firm opposition. I want to emphasize the following:

First, the authority of the NPC decision to improve the electoral system of Hong Kong brooks no challenge. This decision was made by China’s highest organ of state power. It is in line with the provisions of the Constitution of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, conforms to universal practice, and constitutes a necessary step to uphold and improve the mechanisms of “One Country, Two Systems”. It has a solid political foundation and legal base. Its legitimacy brooks no distortion and its authority allows no challenge.

Second, the allegations that improving Hong Kong’s electoral system “stifles critical voices”, “erodes democracy” and “undermines ‘One Country, Two Systems’” are absurd. Since resuming exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, China has fully and faithfully implemented “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy, and we will continue to do so. Improving the electoral system in the Hong Kong SAR and implementing the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong” will promote the sound development of the democratic system in Hong Kong, better safeguard the rights, interests and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens, and ensure the steady and sustained practice of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Third, the so-called “China breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration” is a non issue. The Chinese Government governs Hong Kong in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, not the Joint Declaration. The core content of the Joint Declaration is to ensure China resumes exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. Its historical mission was completed at the handover. The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of “supervision” over Hong Kong after the handover, and it has no so-called “obligations” to Hong Kong citizens. No foreign country or organisation has the right to take the Joint Declaration as an excuse to interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.

Fourth, China strongly opposes any external interference. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. How to design and improve its electoral system is purely China’s internal affair and brooks no external interference. A few days ago, 71 countries delivered a joint statement and over 20 countries made respective remarks at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in support of China’s position and measures on Hong Kong-related issues and opposing other countries’ interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs. These just voices from the international community fully represents justice and fairness. The attempts of politicians from the relevant countries and groups, including the UK, to distort facts and impose unwarranted accusations on China will in no way change the judgement of the just force in the international community. China has the will, determination and capability to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests. We urge the relevant countries and groups, including the UK, to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.

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Academia and China

At the beginning of the year, we predicted that British academic institutions would face increasingly tight scrutiny from MPs and policymakers for their links and collaborations with China. At the time we wrote:

We expect to see closer Governmental scrutiny on this issue, potentially with pressure coming from groups like the CRG or through a Select Committee.

We include this not as a brag (only partly), but mainly to show that this increased scrutiny should not have come as a surprise to universities and higher education, or indeed anyone who works in and around this area.

In a new report, ‘The China Question’, Baron (Jo) Johnson and various academics and analysts assess the landscape and makes the case for implementing “a robust framework for engaging China in research and higher education”. Filled with pithy insights - ‘academia is … a natural and deeply familiar ground for “proxy war” between economic competitors’ - it makes the case for a rethink and immediate audit.

It finds:

The extensive relationship with China across our university system, in both teaching and research, is inadequately mapped. The UK needs to do a better job of measuring, managing and mitigating risks that are at present poorly understood and monitored. Our research shows that collaboration between China and the UK has increased from fewer than 100 co-authored papers before 1990, to around 750 per year in 2000 (about 1 per cent of UK output), and then to 16,267 papers in 2019 (about 11 per cent of UK output).

There are now no fewer than 20 subject categories in which collaborations with China account for more than 20 per cent of the UK’s high-impact research. In three key subjects – automation and control systems; telecommunications; and materials science, ceramics – collaborations with China represent more than 30 per cent of such output.

The report is pragmatic about the relationship, noting:

There is a tendency … to answer the China question in a binary way, as if there is no possible middle ground between naïve embrace and defiant disengagement. Neither extreme is likely to be in the UK national interest. China is, simultaneously, across various policy areas, a cooperation partner with which the UK has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner with which the UK needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance and violations of human rights on a massive scale. This requires a flexible and pragmatic whole-of-government approach, enabling a principled defence of interests and values.

A couple of key stats that caught our eye:

  • International enrolments to study in China rose from 52,000 in 2000 to almost 500,000 in 2018

  • The UK produces a dismal 300 graduates in Chinese studies (not even Chinese language) every year

  • China, through the Silk Road Scholarship, has given 10,000 students from BRI countries awards to study in the country

  • In a 2018 survey of over 500 China scholars, 26% conducting archival research had been denied access to archives, 5% reported difficulty obtaining a visa, and around 9% reported having been “taken for tea”, a euphemism for being monitored and questioned by Chinese state officials.

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Odds and ends

  • The FCDO has for the first time published a guidance paper on how the Great Britain-China Centre works. Note the slightly unusual timing of this. (GOV.UK)

  • Readers will no doubt have seen that the controversy around British Ambassador to China Caroline Wilson’s article has rolled on into a second week. Wilson was summoned to explain herself, and posted a tweet standing by the piece. Here’s the Chinese readout. Her treatment by China has infuriated many of the commentariat in London.

  • A frothy piece in the Times states that China’s planned Embassy in the old Royal Mint “could be a nest of spies”.

  • Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele (he of the Trump dossier) has appeared in the news warning that there needs to be new legislation to restrict foreign influence over the British government and institutions. (BBC)

  • Architect of the Golden Era, former Chancellor George Osborne will be before the International Relations and Defence Committee next Wednesday at 10am. One to watch.

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Spotted

The South China Morning Post has quoted He Yiting, former executive vice-president of the Central Party School, calling for a halt to the rising nationalism within China. He told a delegation:

“(China should) continue to expand opening-up, actively and prudently handle relations with major countries, and prevent the rise of domestic populism.”

The paper notes “it is rare for someone of He’s stature – a former senior official from the Central Party School, the top ideological indoctrination institution of the Communist Party – to issue such a caution.”

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Business

Jardines, Standard Chartered, HSBC, CGTN

Known affectionately as the ‘House of a Thousand Arseholes’, Jardine House (pictured above) has seen its fair share of political and financial problems unravel below on the streets of Hong Kong during its time. Here’s a fun fact - at its inception in 1972, it was the first skyscraper in Hong Kong, and the tallest one in Asia. Although not listed in Hong Kong, the city remains the single largest geographic market for the Group while the mainland market is growing rapidly and accounted for 29% of profits in 2020.

On Monday the Financial Times reported that Jardines, one of the original Hongs, would:

Delist its second-largest unit, Jardine Strategic, in a $5.5bn buyout deal aimed at simplifying a complex, cross-shareholding structure originally set up to thwart hostile takeover bids.

MorningStar elaborates:

Jardine Matheson will buy the 15% of Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd that it doesn't already own. It then will cancel Jardine Strategic's 59% shareholding in Jardine Matheson. Jardine Strategic minority shareholders will receive USD33.00 in cash per share, valuing the 15% stake at USD5.5 billion

In the accompanying press release, Executive Chairman Ben Keswick states:

The simplification of our ownership structure is a natural step in the evolution of the Group and will create value for our shareholders. Taking full ownership of Jardine Strategic is consistent with our policy of investing further in the growth prospects of our existing businesses and highlights the benefits of consistently maintaining the Group’s financial strength. This move also enables us to demonstrate unequivocally the substantial and continuing commitment of our core shareholder base, which has always been such a vital element in the long term success of Jardine Matheson.

Finally, for a bonus point - what unites Jardines, HSBC and Swire? They were all mentioned in Parliament this week - by the Former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer no less:

John McDonnell: What action do the Government intend to take against those UK-based companies that have expressed support for the national security law, like HSBC and Jardine Matheson, and Swire, which has victimised its workers who have expressed opposition to this law?

Bonus FT article on Ben Keswick here.

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Standard Chartered

As we’ve discussed in previous Briefings, Standard Chartered has largely managed to escape the public relations nightmare that local rival HSBC has endured over the last two years (a topic we’ve covered at length in previous Briefings). This was, in part, because none of the StanChan leadership crew initially put their head above the parapet to announce they would be publicly supporting the National Security Law, unlike their rival. This allowed them to escape the worst of the political anger directed at HSBC by MPs (which is ongoing and flares up in Parliament on a regular basis, including earlier in the week.)

This week however, a Financial Times piece provided an insightful look into the internal moral dilemma that the bank faces. Titled ‘StanChart tries to navigate moral minefield’, it reports:

StanChart is struggling to balance its commercial dependence on China against its London headquarters and its reliance on US dollars. The internal debate is sharpening amid rising geopolitical tensions and increased pressure from investors on environmental, social and governance issues.

Led by chief executive Bill Winters, StanChart’s top executives met late last year to discuss reputation risk. Separately, the board debated its approach to government relations. China and human rights featured prominently in both discussions, according to people familiar with the meetings.

The non-executive director responsible for brand values and conduct — Jasmine Whitbread, a former Oxfam director and ex-CEO of Save the Children — chaired the meeting. Attendees questioned whether, by continuing to do business with Chinese state firms accused of human rights violations in Xinjiang, StanChart was living up to its brand promise of “here for good”.

Some board members expressed concern that the bank’s relationships with such state entities exposed it to excessive reputational risk, the people said. They also discussed their approach to the national security law imposed on Hong Kong and US sanctions on some of the city’s top officials.

Particularly notable is this quote from an anonymous insider:

“If you have a business that is geared to China, how do you approach the Uighur muslims, US-China geopolitics, the belt-and-road colonialist debt trap and Hong Kong, while being a bank that espouses ESG values?” the person added. “How do you make that fit? We have been spinning the wheels trying to work it out — without success.”

And another:

“We are looking across at what has happened with HSBC worried that it is coming our way,” another source said. “We spent a lot of time moving in HSBC’s shadow on this. At the moment they are taking all the flak, by the grace of God.”

Worth reminding ourselves what the official Government line is on this, via Minister for Asia Nigel Adams earlier in the week:

We are in close contact with a wide range of businesses in Hong Kong, but it is important that businesses themselves make their own judgment calls. Businesses, including HSBC in Hong Kong, have to do that. They need to be able to stand by each decision they make publicly.

The crux is this. Companies like HSBC and Standard Chartered (and thousands of others) will continue to toe a fine and increasingly difficult line on China, while taking heat from Westminster, because the Chinese domestic market vastly outweighs that of the UK, and the consequences of upsetting the Chinese Government vastly outweigh those of the UK’s.

It’s the economy, stupid.

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CGTN fined

Already on the naughty step, China’s CGTN has been slapped with £225,000 sanction by Ofcom for breaching impartiality rules. The Telegraph reports:

Ofcom sanctioned China Global Television Network £125,000 for failing to uphold “due impartiality” in five broadcasts relating to protests in Hong Kong in 2019, it was announced on Monday.

A second fine of £100,000 was levied on the state-owned company for breaching fairness and privacy requirements in two reports, aired in 2013 and 2014, on the arrest of Peter Humphrey, a British citizen.

Mr Humphrey had lodged a complaint with Ofcom arguing that the reports included footage of him which gave the false impression that he was voluntarily confessing to crimes.

As a reminder - CGTN has hundreds of millions of followers on social media; the ruling does not limit the channel’s ability to share content in the UK online. Their statement can be viewed here, and says:

CGTN believes its coverage of the 2019 violent protests in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was fair, truthful and duly impartial. The protests that followed the introduction of The Fugitive Offenders & Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Bill, had a serious impact on the social stability and economic life of Hong Kong and threatened the safety of residents' lives and property, and have drawn widespread attention from the international community. Some of the international media focused overwhelmingly on the voices and claims of the protesters to the exclusion of virtually all other views. As a news outlet from China, CGTN made it possible for global audiences to see and hear a more complete picture of events in Hong Kong by reporting on the voices opposing violence and destruction. The fact that CGTN has been sanctioned by Ofcom for its objective coverage of the event is unjust. 

In the cases of Peter Humphrey, Gui Minhai and Simon Cheng, we also believe Ofcom's decisions and actions towards CGTN are unreasonable and unjust. In the news reporting of all the cases in question, CGTN has acted in the public interest and presented the facts and views of all parties in a balanced manner. The channel has taken appropriate and sufficient steps to ensure the filming and broadcast of these reports are in compliance with Ofcom's regulations. There are reasons to believe that the complaints were initiated by certain organizations and parties making no secret of their hostility towards China and their desire is to have CGTN taken off-air and to prevent Chinese journalists from carrying out objective and legitimate reporting activities. It is in the public interest that the world should be able to hear China's voice and perspective and see the true picture more clearly.
 

Floating around the Twittersphere was an open letter from No Cold War (the outfit that hosted a Xinjiang denialist a couple of months ago) urging the decision to be revoked. Signed by various personalities and retweeted by Minister at the Chinese Embassy Ma Hui, it claimed:

This attack on free speech also takes place in the context of the threat of a new cold war against China. At such a moment, it is crucial to build mutual understanding between peoples and also to accurately comprehend the positions of the chief actors in the global situation. Denying a voice to China’s CGTN hampers this.

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Odds and ends

  • Eye-catching numbers inside a Guardian report on China’s embrace of plant-based meat substitutes. China’s plant-based meat market was estimated at 6.1bn yuan (£675m) in 2018 and projected to grow between 20 and 25% annually.

  • The UK's National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ, is warning businesses to urgently update their Microsoft email servers following a Chinese-sponsored espionage campaign. (Sky News)

  • Business Insider has learned that TikTok now has three bases in London, and employs around 3,000 people in the UK. It comes as the tech firm continues to face scrutiny in Westminster. (Business Insider). China Daily is pleased, writing:

    What is certain, however, is that TikTok's growing army of users, not least in the UK, has shrugged off last year's political squabbles. They are understandably more focused on their next video than on where their favorite app decides to make its corporate base.

  • While perusing this week’s Hansard, your writer came across an odd question. Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell (member of CANZUK, Hong Kong, Taiwan APPGs) asked the Home Office “how many of the 46 VFS run visa centres which are subcontracted to local companies are based in China.” This caught our eye because Canada’s immigration minister has just had to defend outsourcing its visa office to company run by Beijing police. (National Post)

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Spotted

Geoeconomics has claimed its latest victim - teenage entrepreneurs making money by dropshipping (a method of fulfilling orders that means sellers don’t have to keep the products they list in stock. Instead, they rely on a third-party producer to manufacture the item on-demand and ship it directly to the customer.)

WIRED reports:

In the aftermath of Brexit, Aliexpress, one of the main sites that connects dropshippers with China-based manufacturers, slapped a 20 per cent price hike on every product sold through its platform. The policy was introduced to cover a change to UK tax law that shifts the requirement for levying VAT on items brought into the UK from the customer at the point of receipt of the goods to the company selling them, at the point of sale. Previously, smaller items that were sent to the UK, costing under £15 each, weren’t checked and taxed because they were assumed to be gifts.

One dropshipper tells the tech magazine:

“Because of Brexit, shipping prices from China to the UK are ten times higher [than before] and there are a lot of delays at customs” 

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Society

Who’s actually on the sanctions list?

Repeated talk of sanctions over the last couple of weeks led your writer to have a skim of the most recent UK Government Sanctions List, and to learn that there are better things to read before bed. In particular and given the nature of this Briefing, is there anyone of Chinese origin is on the list? A couple that stood out:

Gao Qiang aka FISHERXP

  • On the list for cyber offences, worked for Huaying Haitai. Was involved in relevant cyber activity Operation Cloud Hopper, one of the most significant and widespread cyber instructions to date. “Gao Qiang was involved in relevant cyber activity through his employment with Huaying Haitai and setting up command and control infrastructure used to conduct relevant cyber activity.

Zhang Shilon gaka BAOBEILONG

  • On the list for cyber offences, also worked for Huaying Haitai.

Hyon Chol-Hae

  • Born in Manchuria, China, former military adviser to Kim Jong-il and sanctioned for his role in the DPRK, also Marshal of the Korean People's Army

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