Newly appointed foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted to an embarrassing “mistake” after describing his Chinese wife as Japanese. The gaffe happened during his first diplomatic mission to Beijing.
Mr Hunt, who succeeded the gaffe-prone Boris Johnson earlier in July, may have hoped his personal connection to China through his wife, Lucia, would have aided his efforts to forge strong links with his Chinese counterparts.
But in a meeting with officials from the Beijing government, Mr Hunt said: “My wife is Japanese … my wife is Chinese.”
To laughter in the room, he added: “Sorry, that’s a terrible mistake to make.”
“My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xian and strong family connections in China,” he added, referring to the ancient city of Xian in northern China.
His remarks came after he hailed UK-China relations, claiming the two countries were both “major powers with a global perspective” ahead of talks with the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi.
At a press conference with counterpart Wang Yi, Mr Hunt was also asked about the situation in Hong Kong, which the UK handed back to China in 1997.
Under the “one country, two systems” model, Beijing promised to let Hong Kong maintain wide autonomy and civil liberties. However, fears are growing that China’s leaders are backtracking by oppressing the political opposition.
Mr Hunt said: “Hong Kong is part of China but of course we signed the joint declaration and we, as the United Kingdom, are very much committed to the one country, two systems approach, which we think has served both Hong Kong and China extremely well.”
Mr Wang pointedly responded: “Hong Kong affairs are the domestic affairs of China. We do not welcome nor do we accept other countries to interfere in China’s domestic affairs.”
But he insisted that “China will continue to support and will stay committed to one country, two systems”.