Theresa May pledges to raise Hong Kong and human rights with China

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Prime minister says she believes her relationship with Xi Jinping will allow her to talk thorny issues but defenders doubt her will or influence

Theresa May has insisted she will raise human rights and Hong Kong’s political situation with China’s leaders this week, amid criticism of Britain’s “pusillanimous” response to Beijing’s increasingly hard line.

Addressing reporters as she flew out to start a three-city tour of China, the British prime minister, who will dine with President Xi Jinping on Thursday, vowed to broach both politically sensitive issues.

Related: Hong Kong authorities block pro-democracy candidate from byelection

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