Chinese embassy in Ireland taunts Boris Johnson over Brexit and NI Protocol

UK PM’s claim China breaking international agreement over Hong Kong provokes response from embassy

The Chinese embassy in Ireland has taunted UK prime minister Boris Johnson over Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Johnson marked the 25th anniversary of the handover of the former British colony of Hong Kong to China with a tweet: “25 years ago we made a promise to the people of Hong Kong. We intend to keep it.”

The Chinese embassy in Ireland screen-grabbed the tweet and responded: “Two years ago we made a promise to the Northern Ireland Protocol. We are determined to break it.”

That tweet was in reference to legislation proposed by Mr Johnson’s government which is intended to override the Northern Ireland protocol which his government signed up to 2019.

Earlier this week Mr Johnson said Britain would do all it could to hold Beijing to its commitments on democratic rights made in 1997. He said China had failed to comply with its commitment to respect a “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement agreed under the deal that ended British colonial rule. Britain has been especially critical of a national security law imposed in 2020 and electoral changes that it says erode the freedoms and autonomy of Hong Kong.

The tweet by the Chinese embassy was seized upon by many of Mr Johnson’s critics who believe it shows how little authority the UK has left to lecture other countries on abiding by international treaties.

Gavin Barwell, the former Downing Street chief of staff to Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, tweeted in response: “This is why going back on our word is such a bad idea: it doesn’t just damage our relations with our friends, it was always going to be quoted back at us when we accuse others of not honouring their commitments. Not too late to stop this act of self harm.”

Author Edwin Hayward added: “Boris Johnson has dragged the UK’s reputation so deep into the mud, an official Chinese embassy account feels perfectly comfortable openly trolling him.”

Chris Patton, the last governor of Hong Kong, told Sky News that the British government threat to break an international agreement over the Northern Ireland protocol was undermining its moral authority.

“If and when we do breach international agreements, it will come back and hit us like a boomerang,” he said.

It is not the first time the Chinese embassy in Dublin has taken to Twitter to taunt international critics.

Last year, the embassy posted a tweet that referred to Aesop’s fable about a wolf and its desire to eat a lamb in a message widely seen as a reference to the more aggressive “wolf diplomacy” being pursued by China under president Xi Jinping. The tweet was later deleted.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times