China has been invited to attend the UK's global artificial intelligence (AI) summit in November, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly confirmed on Tuesday.
Defending the move, which has been likened to "letting the cat in with the canaries," Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said the invitation won't extend to "every single part of the summit."
The two-day event at Bletchley Park in early November will be the first major global summit on AI safety. Attendants reportedly will include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.
Confirming China's invitation on Tuesday, Mr. Cleverly said in a statement, “We cannot keep the UK public safe from the risks of AI if we exclude one of the leading nations in AI tech.
“That’s why China has been invited to our AI Safety Summit in November.
“The UK’s approach to China is to protect our institutions and infrastructure, align with partners, and engage where it is in the UK’s national interest.”
Asked if the invitation was sent to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Downing Street told reporters, “It will be for each country to decide who they think is the appropriate representative.”
The spokesman said he was “not aware of there being any difference” in the invitations sent to Beijing and the United States.
Pressed on whether China is considered a "like-minded” country, he said it had been "well established" that ministers "recognise that China is an authoritarian country and represents a significant challenge."
“And it’s right only to engage when it’s in the interest of the British public and I think that’s what you’re seeing us do here," he said, adding that the government is “clear-eyed” in its approach to Beijing and “wouldn’t do anything that was out of line with the strategy set out in the integrated review.”
Expert: 'Democratic Nations' Should Talk FirstNathan Benaich, co-author of the State of AI report, told The Times of London that inviting "a hostile power that is currently suspected of organising a concerted effort to infiltrate our Parliament is a classic case of rewarding bad behaviour."
Mr. Benaich was referring to the recent revelation that a parliamentary researcher embedded among critics of the Chinese regime was arrested in March over suspicions that he may have been spying for China. The man, who has not been officially identified, said he is completely innocent.
“Democratic nations should focus on reaching a shared position on these critical questions before opening the door to a power whose interests lie in subverting this process. A country that uses AI to support the mass repression of ethnic and ethnic-religious minorities has nothing to teach us about safety and governance,” Mr. Benaich said.
Hong Kong Legal System in JeopardyMeanwhile, Mr. Cleverly said "Hong Kong’s legal and judicial systems are at a critical juncture" in the foreword of a report published on Tuesday.
"As test cases proceed through the courts, new legal precedents are being established," he said. "Hong Kong’s courts remain independent, but they are having to adjudicate on an opaque [National Security Law (NSL)] that places the authority of the Chief Executive on security matters above that of their own."
The report said Hong Kong authorities have extended the application of the NSL "beyond genuine national security concerns," including trying to"suppress the song 'Glory to Hong Kong'" and targeting pro-democracy figures such as British citizen, media mogul Jimmy Lai and other dissidents.
The UK has previously said Beijing's imposition of NSL on Hong Kong was a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Responding to the report, Beijing accused the UK of planning to "disrupt Hong Kong" and said the alleged plans "are doomed to fail."