China rages at ‘provocative’ UK visit as MPs travel to Taiwan

China rages at 'provocative' UK visit to Taiwan

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MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee are visiting Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, until Saturday and meeting dignitaries amid strained UK relations with Beijing. Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, said the west cannot afford to lose “another democratic partner” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sky News Australia’s Asia correspondent Brent O’Halloran pointed out China temporarily cut diplomatic ties with the US following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

He said: “China would see this as provocative as it’s a clear show of UK support for Taiwan as it resists China’s pledge to take over.

“The MPs are from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee and they’re here for five days speaking with business leaders, politicians as well as the president.

“The group hasn’t said too much so far as there is a press briefing later today.”

He added: “While the UK presents this as a fact-finding tour, Beijing would see this as a prominent group of uninvited guests trying to undermine its effort to unify with Taiwan.

“We of course remember the response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, China temporarily cut diplomatic ties with the US and launched major military drills around Taiwan.

“While visits from foreign politicians to Taiwan aren’t that uncommon, this high profile one may provoke something similar, certainly at least stir anger from across the strait.”

Speaking from Taipei, Mr Ellwood said: “President Xi (Jinping) has made it clear that it (China) will use forces necessary to take this island and I think there are lessons to be learned from Ukraine.

“China is now getting more aggressive, more assertive, and if President Xi fulfils his promise, the impact would be huge.”

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It would give China momentum to further pursue its authority authoritarian agenda, he said.

“How would the west look after that – losing another democratic partner? So it’s so important to understand what is going on here and prepare for what might be coming over the hill.”

The visit follows heightened tensions between the west and China over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the self-ruling island in August, which prompted Mr Xi to sever some diplomatic ties.

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Asked about China’s possible reaction to British MPs visiting Taiwan, Mr Ellwood said: “China reacted very angrily, wanting to shoo any politician from coming here to see what’s going on.

“That interferes with their plans, but there are 23 million people here who have, I think, a very different view about that.”

He praised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s statement that the “golden era” of UK-Chinese relations is over but added: “We do need to go further and supporting Taiwan has got to be high on the agenda.”

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