Britain’s Foreign Secretary Cleverly expects to meet Chinese VP during coronation

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British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly expects to meet China’s Vice President Han Zheng when foreign leaders visit London for King Charles’s coronation, a rare meeting between senior government officials during a low point in UK-China relations.

“I suspect that I will,” Cleverly told BBC Radio on Tuesday when asked if he would be meeting Han. He said he would discuss a range of subjects including areas where Britain has “points of criticism.”

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A host of foreign dignitaries and heads of state are visiting London this week ahead of Charles’s May 6 coronation, and ministers are likely to use the opportunity to hold meetings with foreign leaders.

UK-China relations are at their worst in decades after London restricted Chinese investment over national security worries and expressed concern at Beijing’s increasing military and economic assertiveness.

Cleverly, who hopes to visit China this year, suggested he would speak to Han about some of those concerns.

“When we engage, it’s about making sure that the Chinese government understand our views on a range of issues including those issues where we feel strongly their behavior is inappropriate, like for example, their failure to abide by the commitments in Hong Kong, or by the treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang,” he said.

While the leaders of France, Germany and Spain have visited China in recent months and called for engagement with the world’s second-biggest economy, the US and Britain are taking a tougher approach to what they consider a growing threat from Beijing to their interests and values.

Britain and China’s leaders have not had a face-to-face meeting since 2018 when Britain’s former prime minister Theresa May went to China on a three-day trade visit.

In a speech in London last week, Cleverly urged China to be more open about what he called the biggest military build-up in peacetime history, and said Britain should engage constructively with China despite its “revulsion” over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

That approach faces opposition from some within Britain’s governing Conservative Party who have argued for an even tougher stance against China, including by reclassifying the country as a “threat” instead of a “systemic competitor.”

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