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China accuses UK of violating international law after sanctions over Ukraine war | UK News

China has accused Britain of violating international law after the UK announced new sanctions targeting “individuals and groups supporting and funding Putin’s war machine”.

China’s embassy said it firmly opposes the sanctions and has warned that any action harming China’s interests “will be met with a firm response”.

In a statement, the embassy insisted that Beijing has remained objective and fair on the war in Ukraine and it is urging the UK to “correct its mistakes and withdraw the sanctions on Chinese firms”.

Forty-six new sanctions were announced by the UK, and the list of targets includes businesses in China, as well as firms in Belarus, Serbia, Turkey, the UAE and Uzbekistan.

The UK’s sanctions targeted 31 people and entities it said were linked to the design and manufacture of drones and missile parts and the import of electronic components.

Three Chinese entities, Asia Pacific Links Limited, Sinno Electronics Co., Limited, and Xinghua Co., Limited, were targeted for supplying sanctioned goods.

Four UAE-based entities it said were involved in trading Russian oil were also affected, as well as others linked to the Wagner mercenary group.

A Belarusian defence organisation the UK said had manufactured military technology used by Minsk to support Russia’s war effort was also sanctioned.

“We will continue to ratchet up pressure on Putin and crack down on third parties providing restricted goods and technology to Russia, wherever they may be,” junior foreign minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

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Parliamentary researcher accused of spying for China says he is ‘completely innocent’ | UK News

A parliamentary researcher who has been arrested on suspicion of spying for China has said he is “completely innocent”.

In a statement released by his lawyers, the man – who they did not name – said: “I feel forced to respond to the media accusations that I am a ‘Chinese spy’. It is wrong that I should be obliged to make any form of public comment on the misreporting that has taken place.

“However, given what has been reported, it is vital that it is known that I am completely innocent. I have spent my career to date trying to educate others about the challenge and threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party.

“To do what has been claimed against me in extravagant news reporting would be against everything I stand for.”

It comes as the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he will make a statement on Monday in relation to the case this afternoon.

The researcher, who is in his 20s, is understood to have had links to security minister Tom Tugendhat, foreign affairs committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns and other senior Tory MPs.

The arrest under the Official Secrets Act led to Rishi Sunak confronting Chinese premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit in India on Sunday over “unacceptable” interference in democracy.

Labour calls for stronger action on ‘dangerous’ XL Bully dogs – politics latest

The incident has also thrown a spotlight on the government’s stance towards China and raised questions about whether it should adopt a tougher approach.

The prime minister has sought to adopt a more diplomatic stance towards Beijing than some of the more hawkish members of his cabinet and party, who want China to be officially classified as a threat.

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PM raised ‘concerns’ with China

This morning Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch echoed Mr Sunak’s approach, saying that China should not be considered a “foe” but a “challenge”.

Ms Badenoch said the claims of spying were an “extremely serious concern” but we “shouldn’t be using language that makes people scared”.

Asked whether China should be described as a threat, Ms Badenoch told Sky News: “I would define it as a challenge.

“I define China as a challenge because certainly from my job as business secretary working on international trade in particular, we see at international level just how significant China is, impacting the economies of countries all around the world.

“I was at the G20 two weeks ago – there were significant difficulties between China and Japan. There were difficult conversations between China and India. So I think across the world, China is becoming a very, very significant challenge.”

Pressed on whether China should be described as a “friend or a foe”, she replied: “We certainly should not be describing China as a foe – but we can describe it as a challenge.

“I don’t think we should be careless in terms of how we speak about other countries when these sorts of things happen.”

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China denies spying against the UK

The arrests were made in March and first revealed by The Sunday Times. Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, which oversees espionage-related offences, are investigating.

The Chinese embassy in London issued a statement yesterday in which it described the incident as “completely fabricated” and “nothing but a malicious slander”.

It also urged Britain’s lawmakers to “stop anti-China political manipulation”.

Read more:
How worried should we be about Chinese ‘spying’ in parliament?
Has China’s economy run out of steam?

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, claimed security services warned about the dangers of spying “some time ago”.

She pointed to the “damning” report from the security and intelligence committee in July which said the government had “no strategy” to deal with China.

“We think there has to be a comprehensive strategy towards the risks, the challenges, and the threats from other states to our national security,” she said.

Asked if she believed China was a friend or foe, she said: “Well, the relationship is clearly complex.

“There are serious issues around the human rights abuses in China. There are serious issues around their approach and their role across the world. And we also have this trading relationship, as we’ve seen the rise of China. We have to deal with that. But in particular, we have to make sure we protect our own national security. That has to come first.”

Women’s World Cup: Stanway ready to step up as England play China in final group game | UK News

Georgia Stanway says she will lead by example in the absence of midfield partner and best friend Keira Walsh when England take on China in their final Women’s World Cup group game.

Walsh was stretchered off in the first half of England’s 1-0 win over Denmark in Sydney on Friday with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, although scans have since shown Walsh has not suffered an ACL injury as first feared.

England boss Sarina Wiegman confirmed Walsh is definitely not in contention for Tuesday’s game against China in Adelaide, with Stanway relishing the prospect of taking on additional responsibility in the absence of Barcelona midfielder Walsh.

“I woke up this morning feeling a lot more mature,” Stanway said.

“I think over the last year I’ve created a little bit of a leadership role for myself in the way I am playing.

“I’ve built a lot of confidence in my own game, I’ve been consistent off the back of the Euros, and I just want to keep that momentum.

“I can prove my leadership by the way that I am playing. I can lead by example and I’m not afraid to communicate. I’ll try and do two jobs.”

More on Women’s World Cup

Wiegman was non-committal when asked whether Walsh would be able to play any further part in the tournament.

“Keira is okay. It’s not an ACL. I can’t give you any more information,” Wiegman said.

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‘England must get job done for Keira’

“She won’t be available tomorrow and actually we are only really focusing on the game tomorrow and after that we will continue what we are doing.

“I think we have a strong enough team. I think every game we want to be at our best and we know she is not available. We have a group of 23, so now we have a group of 22 and we have found solutions, and we will show that tomorrow.

“It’s not nice to lose players. First of all for them, and second for the team, but we are here to move on.

“It’s part of sport, it’s not nice, but we have to move on, to adapt to the new situation and find a way, and bring 11 players on the pitch with whom we think can win the game.”

Read more:
FIFA boss leaves World Cup after less than a week

Everything you need to know about Women’s World Cup

Wiegman now has five players from the starting XI that lifted last year’s Euros unavailable for the showdown with China. But the England boss is not fazed, and says the target is to end the group stages with a 100% record.

Weigman (left) says she's philosophical about the injuries to the team
Image:
Weigman (left) says she’s philosophical about the injuries to the team

“Things happen in sport,” Wiegman said.

“Sometimes you win some things and sometimes you lose, like now you lose some players. As I said, we have a group of 23.

“It looks a little different maybe, because we have different players, but we are still trying to win games. That’s what we have done in the first two games and that’s what we will try to do tomorrow too.”

Stanway added: “Like Sarina said, there’s 22 of us that have got to step up, and she (Walsh) will be watching.”

The group stage has begun and runs over a two-week period, finishing on 3 August. Group winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16, which takes place from 5 August to 8 August.

The quarter-finals, which will be held in Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney, are scheduled for 11 and 12 August.

The first semi-final will be played on 15 August in Auckland, with the other semi-final taking place on 16 August at the Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final on 20 August..

Liz Truss to visit Taiwan in ‘solidarity’ over increasing threats from China | Politics News

Liz Truss will visit Taiwan next week to give a speech about democracy in the face of “increasingly aggressive behaviour from China”.

The former prime minister will deliver a keynote speech to a thinktank to show “solidarity” with Taiwan as it faces an increasing threat from China, her spokesman said.

She is also expected to meet senior Taiwanese government officials during the trip.

Ms Truss, who was also foreign secretary under Boris Johnson, has been giving speeches around the world with a focus on standing up to China since she resigned as prime minister last October after just 44 days.

Ahead of her visit next week, she said: “Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy.

“I’m looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasingly aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing.”

In recent months, Ms Truss has given a speech about China to Japan’s parliament and to the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, where she called on Western democracies to toughen their stance on China.

Two days before her Taiwan visit she will speak at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit where she will talk about an “economic NATO” where like-minded nations agree to make trade and investment decisions to support freedom.

Ms Truss’ short-lived premiership contributed to bringing relations between the UK and China to a low point but her successor Rishi Sunak has been trying to engage with China where possible.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a J-15 Chinese fighter jet prepares to take off from the Shandong aircraft carrier during the combat readiness patrol and military exercises around the Taiwan Island by the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Sunday, April 9, 2023. China's military declared Monday it is "ready to fight" after completing three days of large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to the Taiwanese president's trip to the U.S. last week. (An Ni/Xinhua via AP)
Image:
China held combat readiness exercises in April around Taiwan. Pic: AP

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he “made plain” the UK’s views on issues including Taiwan during a meeting with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng on Friday.

Some MPs, including Tories, condemned Mr Han’s invitation to attend the King’s coronation over the weekend and Mr Cleverly’s planned visit to China this year.

Read more:
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West must ‘get real’ about China threat – Truss

Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Tsai Chi-chang in Taipei
Image:
Nancy Pelosi and Taiwan’s Vice President Tsai Chi-chang in Taipei last year

Visits by Western politicians to Taiwan have become more fractious as China ramps up its rhetoric and displays of military power against Taiwan.

Last year, then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island was condemned by Beijing, who began military exercises around Taiwan shortly after she landed.

A long-time critic of Beijing’s regime, Ms Pelosi met a former student leader of the Tiananmen Square protest, a dissident Hong Kong bookseller and a Taiwanese activist who was imprisoned in China.

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‘They’re not keeping us from going to Taiwan’

Beijing called the visit a “provocation” by the US and warned President Joe Biden to abide by the One China principle, adding “those who play with fire will perish by it”.

The Foreign Office is “aware and abreast” of Ms Truss’ Taiwan visit, her team said, but the department is not in charge of approving overseas visits by MPs.

Boris Johnson calls on UK to ‘break the ice’ by sending Ukraine fighter jets – and warns China against ‘historic mistake’ | Politics News

Boris Johnson has said China will be making an “historic mistake” if it supplies Russia with weapons – as he urged the UK to “break the ice” by becoming the first country to supply Ukraine with fighter jets.

Speaking to Sky News’ Mark Austin as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches, the former prime minister said he was “very concerned” to see China’s top diplomat meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday.

Asked about the possibility of Beijing supporting Russia’s war effort with weapons, he said: “I think it would be an historic mistake by the Chinese… Why does China want to be contaminated by association with Putin, who has revealed himself to be this gangster and adventurer? I think it would be a big, big mistake by China.

“But what it shows is the the urgency of us giving the Ukrainians what they need to succeed this year and to make sure that 2023 is their victory.”

Putin marks military holiday after missile warning; NATO ‘cannot allow Moscow to win’ – War latest

Mr Johnson, who was prime minister when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, has spoken after Sky News exclusively reported that The Treasury has signalled there is no new money for defence despite recognising the urgent need to rearm in the wake of the war.

As things stand, the British army would run out of ammunition within a few days if called upon to fight and would take up to 10 years to field a modern warfighting division of some 25,000 to 30,000 troops.

Asked whether the UK defence industry should be put on a “war footing” in light of its low stocks of ammunitions, Mr Johnson replied: “I certainly think we need to be making sure that we equip ourselves with what we need. But if you look at the UK’s own defences and how to make sure that our own country is protected and the entire Euro-Atlantic security area is protected, then the best thing you can do, the most economical thing you can do is to make sure that Putin fails in Ukraine and that the Ukrainians win.”

Mr Johnson added: “What I’m saying is that we should continue to supply the munitions that we can. We need to make more munitions.”

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The race is on to rearm Ukraine

Johnson says Ukraine can use jets to recapture territory

The former prime minister has been speaking as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges Western powers to supply his country with fighter jets to support their war effort.

However, there are fears among Western leaders Ukraine would use the jets to strike targets inside Russia.

Mr Johnson appeared confident Ukraine would only use them to defend their country and encouraged the government to supply some of the UK military’s Typhoon jets.

“What the Ukrainians want is F-16s. As it happens, we don’t have F-16s but we do have Typhoons. I think there’s an argument for the UK breaking the ice and giving them some Typhoons. If it’s a question of of training people up to use those machines – we can do that.”

Mr Johnson added he has “no doubt” Ukraine can recapture territory from Russia if it has fighter jets to take out their artillery positions and command and control centres.

Read more:
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Ukraine war: The race to rearm could decide who wins the conflict
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Ukraine war: Five keys moments

‘The decisive moment of the early 21st century’

The former prime minister was also asked about a warning from President Zelenskyy that there could be a third world war if Ukraine loses the conflict.

“I think there is a real risk that if Putin can manufacture any kind of success out of this, then he will be able to continue to threaten not just Ukraine, but all the parts of the former Soviet empire that he wants to intimidate.

“And everybody else around the world will draw the conclusion that aggression pays off and that borders can be changed by force.

“This is an absolutely critical moment for the world. This is a pivot moment. This is a hinge of fate. This is the decisive moment in the early 21st century.”

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Mr Johnson also questioned Mr Putin’s reasons for launching his invasion and said: “He was never really threatened by Ukraine as a potential NATO member. There was no question of establishing NATO’s missiles on Ukrainian soil any of that nonsense.

“This has purely been done by Putin to bolster his flagging position at home and to try to reconstitute the old Soviet empire… I think it would be a terrible signal if he has any kind of success.

“It would be a terrible signal for the world, for everywhere, where we care deeply about borders that should not be changed by force.”

Government officials fly to China to win support for British Steel bailout | Business News

Government officials will this week fly to China in an effort to convince the owner of British Steel to finalise plans for a state funding package amid hundreds of job cuts at the company.

Sky News has learnt that civil servants from the Department for Business and Trade are travelling to meet executives from Jingye Group amid protracted talks about a £300m grant to the Scunthorpe-based company.

Sources said the talks were expected to focus on the value of an energy subsidy package, which could take the overall value of government support for British Steel to approximately £1bn.

It comes just days after Kemi Badenoch, the new business and trade secretary, told Sky News’ economics and data editor, Ed Conway, that “nothing is ever a given” when asked whether Britain needed a steel industry.

A government spokesperson said: “The government recognises the vital role that steel plays within the UK economy, supporting local jobs and economic growth and is committed to securing a decarbonised, sustainable and competitive future for the UK steel sector.

“Government officials are engaging with Jingye regularly as part of the ongoing discussions with the company and our routine work with businesses across the steel sector.

“The Business and Trade Secretary considers the success of the steel sector a priority and continues to work closely with industry to achieve this.”

Sky News revealed last month that Jingye was drawing up plans to cut around 800 jobs at British Steel, with the BBC reporting on Tuesday night that 300 redundancies would be announced this week arising from the closure of coking ovens at the Scunthorpe plant.

Mrs Badenoch’s predecessor, Grant Shapps, told Jingye last month that proposals to make hundreds of workers redundant were “unhelpful” amid negotiations over a £300m taxpayer support package.

British Steel confirmed recently that it was “reluctantly having to consider cost-cutting” but did not specify the number of jobs that were at risk.

Nusrat Ghani, the business minister, had told MPs that talks between the government and British Steel were ongoing, even though the conditions attached to the taxpayer aid include a six-month moratorium on redundancies and a guarantee to preserve an unspecified proportion of the company’s workforce for the next decade.

Jingye said in January that steelmaking in Britain was “uncompetitive” in an international context.

“Unfortunately, like many other businesses we are reluctantly having to consider cost cutting in light of the global recession and increased costs,” the company said.

Sky News revealed last month that British Steel and larger rival Tata Steel would be required to guarantee thousands of jobs until 2033 in return for £600m of government support to help decarbonise the industry.

Any taxpayer funding is to be linked to the replacement of blast furnaces at the company’s sites with greener electric arc furnaces, while Jingye would be obliged to invest at least £1bn in the business by 2030.

A decision to grant the state aid would not be without controversy, given British Steel’s Chinese ownership and doubts about its adherence to financial commitments made when it bought the business out of insolvency proceedings in 2020.

In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, in December, Mr Shapps and Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, warned that British Steel’s demise could cost the government up to £1bn in decommissioning and other liabilities.

They cautioned Mr Hunt that British Steel “does not have a viable business without government support”.

“Closing one blast furnace would be a stepping-stone to closure of the second blast furnace, resulting in a highly unstable business model dependent on Chinese steel imports,” Mr Shapps and Mr Gove wrote.

“Given the magnitude of the liabilities due to fall on HMG in the event of blast furnace closure, and following the PM’s steer, we would like officials to test whether net Government support in the region of £300m for British Steel could prevent closure, protect jobs and create a cleaner viable long-term future for steel production in the United Kingdom.”

British Steel employs about 4,000 people, with thousands more jobs in its supply chain dependent upon the company.

Tata Steel employs substantially more people in the UK, including more than 4,000 at its Port Talbot steelworks in Wales.

According to the ministers’ letter, British Steel had already informed the government that it could close one of the Scunthorpe blast furnaces as soon as next month, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

This would be “followed by the second blast furnace closing later in 2023, creating cumulative direct job losses of around 3,000”, Mr Shapps and Mr Gove wrote.

In May 2019, the Official Receiver was appointed to take control of the company after negotiations over an emergency £30m government loan fell apart.

British Steel had been formed in 2016 when India’s Tata Steel sold the business for £1 to Greybull Capital, an investment firm.

As part of the deal that secured ownership of British Steel for Jingye, the Chinese group said it would invest £1.2bn in modernising the business during the following decade.

Jingye’s purchase of the company, which completed in the spring of 2020, was hailed by Boris Johnson, the then prime minister, as assuring the future of steel production in Britain’s industrial heartlands.

‘Surveillance programme’ to begin random COVID tests for travellers from mainland China to UK | UK News

Random passengers on direct flights from mainland China into the UK are to be tested for COVID-19 in a new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) surveillance programme which starts today.

Concern is growing that COVID is overwhelming the health system in China as the virus continues to spread through a large population which possesses little immunity thanks to the government’s now scrapped Zero-COVID policy, which relied on isolation rather than inoculation.

There are also fears about how accurate the country’s data is over the outbreak.

It is anticipated the currently low numbers of travellers from China will increase from today, as quarantine requirements on return to China are removed, so the new surveillance will begin.

Since 5 January, people travelling from mainland China have been asked to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test.

But the UKHSA said its new programme would also see “a sample of passengers arriving in England from mainland China tested for COVID-19 at the point of their arrival”.

Read more:
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Zero-COVID U-turn means infection rate will be shrouded in secrecy
Half of passengers on China flight to Italy have COVID

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COVID tests for Chinese travellers

The agency said passengers at Heathrow would be invited to take part in the study and all positive samples sent for sequencing.

“This will further enhance the UK’s ability to identify any new variants which may be circulating in China that could evade the immune response of those already vaccinated, or which have the potential to successfully outcompete other variants and spread internationally,” an agency statement explained.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay said as China reopened its borders, it was “right for us to take a balanced and precautionary approach by announcing these temporary measures while we assess the data”.

He added: “This allows our world leading scientists at the UK Health Security Agency to gain rapid insight into potential new variants circulating in China.”

The end to Zero-COVID rules at the beginning of December has unleashed the virus on China, which is home to 1.4 billion people.

The population has little immunity after being shielded since the coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Many funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, while international health experts have warned of at least one million deaths in China this year.