The chair of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee has called China’s ambassador to the UK a “bully”, after the Beijing official accused Britain of cooking up “lies and slander” about the country and of getting too involved in its internal affairs.
Speaking on City A.M.‘s daily podcast The City View, Tom Tugendhat said China’s recent aggressive behaviour was “hugely damaging, not just to the UK but to everyone”.
“It’s hard not to hear the press conference that the Chinese ambassador gave today and not feel that he’s attempting to bully us,” Tugendhat said, who is also the chair of the foreign affairs select committee.
“This is not the correct attitude for someone who is supposed to be building relations… I know this guy came from North Korea as his last posting, and so maybe he’s forgotten that actually we’re not another Communist dictatorship.
“But it certainly does feel as though we’re just here to be bullied by him, and I’m afraid we’re not.”
The Tory MP said the UK considers evidence of China’s human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims “a matter for the whole world” to take a stand on.
“I think it’s a great shame. We’re not getting involved in China’s internal affairs, I don’t think anyone particularly wants to,” he said.
“This is not in any way an intervention on China’s sovereignty, this is simply trying to hold China to the agreements they signed up to.”
His comments come after Tugendhat said earlier this week that he believed Chinese state-sponsored hackers were behind a series of cyber attacks against him, including email impersonations and hacking attempts.
“It’s rather second-rate attempts to gently threaten and gently bully. It’s attempts to confuse and to cause people to doubt whether or not they’re getting real information from a real person, and so someone has been using email accounts that look like mine to send out false information to the media, some friends and family,” Tugendhat said.
He added that while he could not prove Beijing was behind the attacks, researchers had been able to identify the campaign came from internet addresses in mainland China.
“That doesn’t mean it’s the Chinese state doing it… but it does seem rather unlikely that this is not in some way connected to the state.”
Russia report ‘not surprising’
Separately, a top UK security committee last week caused a stir when it released a report which revealed Russian attempts to influence British politics were “the new normal”.
It also said London had become awash with illegal money from Russian actors, with many having close ties to the Kremlin.
“The Russia report didn’t say anything that most of us were surprised about,” said Tugendhat.
“It’s extremely sad, and it’s entirely down to the fact that the Russian state has been taken hostage by a mafia gang led by an old KGB cabal.”
He described the current situation in Russia as one where “the entire country has been taken hostage by a small clique of mafia dons who have quite literally raped it blind, leaving [Russian President] Putin one of the richest men in the world”.
“It’s really left what was once a great country a broken shell of its former self, and that’s not good for anyone.”