China’s ambassador to London has warned banning Huawei from the UK’s 5G telecoms infrastructure would send a “very bad message” to Chinese companies, amid growing unease among MPs over the technology giant.
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming suggested a U-turn on Huawei’s involvement in the mobile network would be damaging to the UK’s image as an open, business-friendly environment.
“The China business community are all watching how you handle Huawei. If you get rid of Huawei it sends out a very bad message to other Chinese businesses,” Mr Liu said at a press briefing on Monday.
He added: “If the UK chooses to pay a high price for poorer quality, or less quality, it is up to you.
“We have to work for the best and prepare for the best. Huawei will survive and prosper.”
The ambassador also warned that if the UK wanted to treat China as a hostile country, it would “have to bear the consequences”.
His comments were made after Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said any change to Huawei’s role in the UK’s 5G mobile network would be announced within weeks.
Boris Johnson is reportedly drawing up plans to remove the Chinese company’s access from the project in what would be a major shift in government policy.
The prime minister has faced pressure from the US and some MPs to ban the telecommunications business on security grounds.
The dispute over Huawei comes amid tensions between the UK and China over Beijing’s imposition of controversial new security legislation in Hong Kong.
Ministers have described the security law as a “clear and serious” violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which led to Hong Kong being returned to China in 1997.
Hong Kong has operated under a “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including an independent judiciary.
In response to the national security legislation, the British government has offered up to 3 million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.
Mr Liu criticised that move on Monday, describing it as a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs”.
“The UK government keeps making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs,” he told reporters.
Additional reporting by agencies