A pro-China business group is urging FTSE100 companies to lobby the UK government to act more pro-Beijing as relations between the two countries begin to flounder.
The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) – whose members include HSBC, BP and Standard Chartered – has spoken to a number of high-profile companies, that have connections to China, to back their lobbying push.
The Sunday Times reports that the campaign is being led by CBBC chair, and head of public affairs at HSBC, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.
In a briefing document, the CBBC said: “One of our first strategic moves post-Brexit should not be to write off a country and a market of 1.4 billion people.”
HSBC has been criticised for supporting new security legislation in Hong Kong, which pro-Democracy activists say will severely curtail freedoms.
The new laws will see criticism of the Communist Party of China outlawed and Chinese security agencies set up in Hong Kong for the first time.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo slammed HSBC’s Asia-Pacific chief executive Peter Wong for backing the new laws, accusing the British bank of a “corporate kowtow” to Beijing.
He said the “browbeating” of HSBC by China’s communist leadership “should serve as a cautionary tale”.
It comes as a part of a wider anti-China China by the government.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab urged Beijing to “step back from the brink” two weeks ago in regards to the new Hong Kong legislation.
Boris Johnson said that millions of Hong Kong residents would be granted access to UK visas, with a pathway to citizenship, if the laws are implemented.
The government is also reviewing US sanctions on Huawei as speculation mounts that Johnson will reverse his decision on allowing the Chinese firm to help build Britain’s 5G network.
The review will report back to the government in a matter of weeks and will look at export controls imposed on Huawei last month.
It comes as numerous media reports have suggested the Prime Minister is considering U-turning on his decision to allow the Chinese telecoms firm to help build Britain’s 5G network.
Johnson made the decision earlier this year to allow Huawei to build “non-core” elements, which were deemed to be less vulnerable to potential security attacks.
Downing Street has come under heavy pressure from Conservative MPs about Huawei’s involvement, with many concerned the firm could collect sensitive information through the network on behalf of the Chinese state.
Australia and the US – both a part of the Five Eyes security network with the UK – have banned Huawei from building any elements of their respective 5G networrks.