The British government has decided to cut its aid to China by 95 percent, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Wednesday.
In a written statement to Parliament, Raab said he had reduced the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to China by 95 percent to just £0.9 million ($1.25 million).
The remaining budget will fund programmes on open societies and human rights, he said.
The reduction was part of the UK’s cuts to its international aid budget announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak last November.
Sunak said that the “domestic fiscal emergency” caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic meant he had to cut international aid from 0.7 percent of the UK’s national income to 0.5 percent.
Raab said the new budget allocation is intended to ensure the UK’s spending on international aid “brings maximum strategic coherence, impact, and value for taxpayers’ money.”
He said the UK “remains a world leader in international development” even after the cuts, and promised to “return to our commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on ODA when the fiscal situation allows.”
Reducing international aid is a controversial issue in the UK and is opposed by opposition parties.
Responding to Raab’s announcement, Sarah Champion, a Labour MP who chairs the International Development Committee of the House of Commons, said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the magnitude of the aid cuts.”
But she said she found it “very surprising that China is still receiving money.”
The TaxPayers’ Alliance, an organisation that champions the interests of UK taxpayers, welcomed the cuts.
Danielle Boxall, the Alliance’s media campaign manager, said: “Slashing foreign aid to China is long overdue.”
“Previous projects, like helping the Chinese produce rice, saw wanton waste of taxpayers’ cash,” she said. “This should be a stepping stone to a proper and permanent cut in the ostentatious overseas aid budget.”
The UK’s relations with the Chinese regime have deteriorated over recent years due to disputes over Hong Kong, Chinese telecom giant Huawei, Chinese cyber-attacks on UK institutions, and allegations of Chinese human rights abuses including genocide.
Last month, the Chinese regime imposed sanctions on British individuals and entities in retaliation for UK sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the alleged abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the Conservative party, one of the people sanctioned by Beijing, welcomed the cuts to aid to China, but questioned “why we have to send any aid to the world’s second largest economy.”
“It is welcome but there are plenty of transactions within the UK that need to stop as they prop up a dictatorial, nasty, and frankly horrid regime,” he was quoted by The Sun as saying.