China accuses MPs of Hong Kong 'interference'

Benny Tai is a founder of the Occupy Central protest group Benny Tai is a founder of the Occupy Central protest group

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The Chinese authorities have accused British MPs of interfering in Hong Kong's affairs, Newsnight has learned.

They are trying to block an influential Westminster committee from carrying out an inquiry into the ongoing tensions in Hong Kong.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK has also tried to warn the MPs off.

It comes as thousands of activists in Hong Kong protest at Chinese government moves which they say will limit democratic elections in the territory.

In a strongly worded letter, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Committee accuses its UK counterpart of carrying out a "highly inappropriate act which constitutes interference in China's internal affairs".

The letter says it has "sent a wrong political signal to the outside world, and disrupted Hong Kong's political reform".

The letter goes on to say China will "brook no interference, either directly or indirectly, from the UK or any other external forces".

'Negative impact'

It adds that the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee's intention to carry out its inquiry "will have a negative impact on the relations between our countries".

The Chinese committee warns the MPs to "act with caution on the issue of Hong Kong, bear in mind the larger picture of China-UK relations and Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, stop interfering in Hong Kong's affairs and cancel the inquiry on UK-Hong Kong relations".

The Commons committee announced its intention to investigate in July, to consider progress made by Hong Kong in the 30 years since its handover was agreed with the UK.

The scope of the inquiry clearly set out to consider progress towards democratic reform.

The deal that the UK signed with China to transfer sovereignty of Hong Kong established the so-called basic law.

That guaranteed high degrees of autonomy and basic rights and freedoms for people living in Hong Kong.

As the co-signatory of the deal, the UK has an ongoing interest in what is happening in Hong Kong. For example, the foreign secretary reports twice a year to Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Sir Richard Ottaway told the BBC's Newsnight he did not "particularly want to irritate the Chinese" but he wanted them to "understand the way we work".

He said he was not offended by the letter from Chinese authorities, adding that the British and Chinese committees both had a "job to do".

"It may well be that my committee will decide that actually the Chinese are behaving perfectly reasonably," he said.

But he said if it was true that a Chinese committee was nominating a "limited number of candidates" for an election, there did appear to be a "prima facie case" that China had breached the undertakings it gave in the 1984 handover agreement.

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    11:15: Abuse report

    The full case review can be read here.

     
  74.  
    11:14: 'Never be put right'

    Jim Leivers, Oxfordshire County Council's director for children, education and families, said the council "made many mistakes and missed opportunities to stop the abuse". The report "shows very clearly that the girls were badly let down by the people and organisations that could - and should - have protected them", he continued. "The dreadful experiences faced by these young women can never be put right. But the safeguarding board is now in a much better position to prevent, disrupt and detect these crimes."

     
  75.  
    11:13: Police apologise

    Chief Constable Sara Thornton, of Thames Valley Police, said: "We are ashamed of the shortcomings identified in this report and we are determined to do all we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."

     
  76.  
    @LisaSkyNews Lisa Dowd, Sky News correspondent

    tweets: Report: victims white girls, perpetrators mainly Asian men. Recommends more research at national level into this issue.

     
  77.  
    11:10: 'Unacceptable delays' BBC News Channel

    Independent chair of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Maggie Blyth is outlining a catalogue of failures. Parents weren't listened to, children were treated as though they had consented to the abuse. While there was "no disregard of clear warnings" at a top level, there were "unacceptable delays" in reacting to what was going on that allowed perpetrators to get away with their crimes, she goes on.

     
  78.  
    @sandralaville Sandra Laville, senior correspondent for the Guardian

    tweets: There was a professional tolerance of children having sex with older men

     
  79.  
    11:05: 'Indescribably awful'

    Alan Bedford, the author of the independent review, wrote: "What happened to the child victims of the sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire was indescribably awful.

    "The child victims and their families feel very let down. Their accounts of how they perceived professional work are disturbing and chastening."

     
  80.  
    11:04:

    As many as 373 girls might have suffered abuse in Oxfordshire, the report has found.

     
  81.  
    @LisaSkyNews Lisa Dowd, Sky News correspondent

    tweets: Serious case review finds no evidence of 'wilful professional neglect' despite girls being trafficked & raped for a decade

     
  82.  
    11:02: Child sex abuse

    The report into child sexual abuse in Oxfordshire has just been released and a news conference on its findings is about to begin.

     
  83.  
    11:01: More on Turing's Law

    Labour say they will introduce legislation to allow the family and friends of deceased men to apply to the Home Office to quash convictions made under the historic gross indecency law. The Protection of Freedom Act (2012) currently allows individuals still alive to apply to have their convictions quashed, but at present, no such redress is available for the relatives of those now dead.

     
  84.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, assistant political editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband pledges to introduce "Turing's Law" - posthumous pardons for gay men convicted under historic indecency laws

     
  85.  
    10:54: 'Stain on society'

    Ed Miliband has told Gay Times Magazine he would fight to obtain pardons for all men convicted as criminals for being gay under the UK's now repealed gross indecency law. It follows the pardon for WW2 codebreaker Alan Turing. "I think it's a stain on our society, frankly," he told the magazine. "I think it's right what's been done in relation to Alan Turing and his family, but there are also other families that will have had relatives who were convicted... simply because of the person they love... I think we owe it to the LGBT community to make this move."

     
  86.  
    @labourwhips Labour whips

    tweets: 2 UQs today: A Smith to Home Sec re Child Sexual Exploitation in Oxfordshire & K Vaz to Home Sec re Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre

     
  87.  
    10:48: 'Half-way house' BBC News Channel

    Liz Dux, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon who represents victims, wants the government to introduce mandatory reporting of child abuse allegations. She says: "What concerns me about today is that it'll be a half-way house. The burden of proof for wilful neglect is very high. The burden would be on the prosecutors to show that a member of staff had knowledge and deliberately didn't pass it on.

    "We don't want people prosecuted for this, we want to stop the paedophiles. No-one wants to see a raft of litigation against social services - what we want to do is change the culture. So something is reported to you and you automatically know, you have no choice, you have to pass it on."

     
  88.  
    10:41: Charity 'sorry' for Blair award BBC Radio 4

    Earlier on Today, the chief executive of Save the Children apologised for giving Tony Blair a global legacy award. Justin Forsyth said he was "very sorry" to the supporters and volunteers who were "upset" by the honour, given Mr Blair's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Admitting the row had "in part" damaged the charity, he added: "This has been really an unnecessary distraction." This was our original story about the award.

     
  89.  
    10:33: MPs question Mark Carney

    In Parliament, Bank of England governor Mark Carney is answering questions from the Treasury select committee on its monitoring of the foreign exchange industry. The Bank has accepted that recent misconduct allegations in financial markets have increased the need to strengthen its oversight regime.

     
  90.  
    @alantravis40 Alan Travis, Guardian home affairs editor

    tweets: Theresa May's decision to make child sex abuse part of the strategic policing requirement puts it on par with terrorism & organised crime

     
  91.  
    10:27: 'I would do it differently' Buzzfeed

    Nicky Morgan, who also serves as equalities minister in addition to her job as education secretary, has given an interview to BuzzFeed about her views on homosexuality. She infamously voted against gay marriage in February 2013 but says her experience in the job has changed her mind. "Doing this role as equalities minister means you learn a lot," Mrs Morgan says. "You speak to a lot of people and yeah, hence very much I think if the vote was held now I would do it differently."

     
  92.  
    @YvetteCooperMP Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary

    tweets: Theresa May says her failed net migration target will be in Tory manifesto. Again. No ifs, no buts. Who does she think she is kidding?

     
  93.  
    10:20: Two Davids
    David Cameron and David Walliams

    "Her favourite David is David Walliams" - that's what the PM has told a Downing Street party about his wife, Samantha. According to the Daily Mail, Mr Cameron told a St David's Day reception: "She sat next to him at a charity function and said he was the funniest man she'd ever met so I'm going to have to learn to live with that."

     
  94.  
    10:17: 'Key pillars'

    Today's strategy, Nicola Sturgeon continues, is "based on the key pillars of investment, innovation, inclusive growth and internationalisation".

     
  95.  
    10:16: 'Equality and competitiveness'
    Nicola Sturgeon

    Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland's economy has made progress since 2007 but it can still be improved. Today's economic strategy will promote "equality and competitiveness together as two sides of the same coin", she says. The Scottish government will pursue fair work and a living wage, encourage more women and disabled people into the labour market, and make key investments in health and educational attainment.

     
  96.  
    10:11: Nicola Sturgeon speech BBC News Channel

    Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is now on her feet launching her economic strategy for Scotland in Linlithgow. You can watch her on the News Channel by clicking on the tabs above.

     
  97.  
    10:10: 'Time for hand-wringing long gone'
    Abuse victim

    "The depressing list of abuse scandals in recent years has left the nation shocked and stunned," says the NSPCC's chief executive Peter Wanless. "But now we must have positive action to make sure children are properly protected and, hopefully, today's government announcements will start to swing the odds in favour of the victims, not the offenders. When we have children just out of primary school being targeted and groomed by predatory gangs of men, we know the time for hand-wringing has long gone. There have been enough warnings that we are not doing enough to keep children safe. Now it's time to act."

     
  98.  
    10:01: '100% wrong' LBC

    Ask Boris concludes with the most passionate answer of the last 60 minutes from the London mayor, who is questioned about the role of the security services in radicalising Islamic State fighter Mohammed Emwazi. Human rights group Cage has produced a tape of Emwazi claiming MI5 threatened him and tried to "put words into my mouth". Its research director, Asim Qureshi, tells Mr Johnson there is "direct causality" between this and his subsequent actions as the radicalised 'Jihadi John'.

    Mr Johnson tells Mr Qureshi he has "got this 100% the wrong way up". He adds: "You need to see this thing differently. The security services are trying to keep us safe. They cannot conceivably be blamed for their actions in trying to prevent people trying to commit sick atrocities against the British people and indeed against people in Syria and Iraq. If you're a human rights group you should be sticking up for the human rights of those who are being beheaded in Syria and Iraq, that should be the focus of your concern." And with that Ask Boris wraps up. Our full story on the Emwazi tape can be read here.

     
  99.  
    09:57: 'Strict disciplinarian' The Daily Telegraph

    A very funny sketch in the Telegraph today by Michael Deacon. "It must be tough, being David Cameron's children. By modern standards of parenting, he's a pretty strict disciplinarian... 'I want my children,' he declared sternly, 'to be able to walk from Liverpool to Leeds through green belt protected land.' What an extraordinary announcement. The distance from Liverpool to Leeds is 72 miles." Mr Deacon wonders how Nancy, Elwen and Florence will manage the arduous journey - and what they will do in Leeds when they get there. "Are they to spend the night in the city? Just the three of them? Mr Cameron made no mention of accompanying them on their gruelling trek."

     
  100.  
    @Number10gov David Cameron, PM

    tweets: Sir John Major to represent UK at Boris #Nemtsov's memorial, over 20 years after they met here in Nizhny Novgorod

    Sir John Major and Boris Nemtsov
     

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