In a fresh interview with the Sunday Times, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on China to choose the side of "good" and join the global community by definitively condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He said failing to do so is akin to choosing the wrong side of World War 2.
Johnson described the ongoing war as a "battle between good and evil and said that Putin was trying to establish a new world order which was authoritarian." He said: "As time goes on, and as the number of Russian atrocities mounts up, I think it becomes steadily more difficult and politically embarrassing for people either actively or passively to condone Putin's invasion."
"There are considerable dilemmas now for people who thought they could sit this one out, who thought they could sit on the fence." Johnson further said it's his believe that some within the CCP government are likely having doubts about China's official stance - which has stopped short of even calling the conflict an "invasion" - but has merely referred to the "crisis". Johnson asserted: "And, yes, I think that in Beijing you are starting to see some second thoughts."
The prime minister additionally said it's likely that pressure will mount for Beijing to get off the fence and speak forcefully against Moscow: "As time goes on, and as the number of Russian atrocities mounts up, I think it becomes steadily more difficult and politically embarrassing for people either actively or passively to condone Putin's invasion," Johnson said. He added:
"There are considerable dilemmas now for people who thought they could sit this one out, who thought they could sit on the fence."
The pointed words aimed at pressuring Beijing come after multiple days of the Biden administration warning China over any scenario that might see weapons or military resupplies being transferred to Russia in support of its offensive in Ukraine.
Johnson's interview was published simultaneous to a speech he gave which quickly unleashed controversy within Britain, given that while discussing Ukraine he made a perhaps awkward Brexit comparison. As the BBC describes of his words:
Boris Johnson has been criticised for comparing the struggle of Ukrainians fighting Russia's invasion to people in Britain voting for Brexit.
In a speech he said Britons, like Ukrainians, had the instinct "to choose freedom" and cited the 2016 vote to leave the EU as a "recent example".
The comments have caused anger among politicians both in the UK and Europe. Donald Tusk, the former president of the European Council, called the comments offensive.
Conservative peer Lord Barwell said voting in a referendum was not "in any way comparable with risking your life" in a war, while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said it was an "insult" to Ukrainians.
Johnson had made the comparison before a Conservative Party conference in Blackpool on Saturday, wherein he started by saying, "I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples."
"When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners, he added. "It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself."