The Daily Telegraph
Parliament ban for Chinese ambassador
Palace of Westminster invitation dropped amid sanctions against MPS over human rights abuses
The Chinese ambassador to the UK has been banned from Parliament after an invitation for him to visit the Commons caused outrage among MPS and peers who are under sanctions imposed by Beijing. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, and his Lords counterpart, Lord Mcfall, stepped in at the last minute, taking the joint decision to stop Zheng Zeguang setting foot in the Palace of Westminster amid an outcry over China’s human rights abuses.
THE CHINESE ambassador to the UK has been banned from Parliament after an invitation for him to visit the Commons caused outrage among MPS and peers under sanctions by Beijing.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, and his Lords counterpart Lord Mcfall stepped in at the last minute to stop Zheng Zeguang setting foot in the Palace of Westminster amid an outcry over China’s human rights abuses.
They took the joint decision after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made it clear it was a matter for Parliament.
Tory MP Richard Graham, chair of the All-party Parliamentary China Group (APPCG) had extended the invitation during the summer, despite China having placed five of his Conservative colleagues under sanctions as well as two members of the House of Lords.
The Telegraph understands he did not seek prior permission from either chamber.
The ban, which is likely to enrage Beijing, came after the sanctioned MPS, including former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, wrote to the Commons Speaker condemning the visit, which was due to take place today.
Last night, Sir Lindsay told The Telegraph: “I regularly hold meetings with ambassadors from across the world to establish enduring ties between countries and parliamentarians.
“But I do not feel it’s appropriate for the ambassador for China to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions against some of our members. If those sanctions were lifted, then of course this would not be an issue.”
A spokesman for the Lords Speaker added: “The Speakers of both Houses are in agreement that this particular APPG China meeting should take place elsewhere.”
Thanking both Speakers, Sir Iain said: “This meeting should never have been proposed on the parliamentary estate in the first place.
“It is completely unacceptable that sanctioned MPS would have been expected to tolerate the Chinese ambassador on the parliamentary estate.”
In March, China imposed sanctions on 10 UK organisations and individuals over what it called the spreading of “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses in Xinjiang province.
The British politicians placed under sanctions – Sir Iain, Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the foreign affairs select committee, Nus Ghani, Neil O’brien and Tim Loughton – have been at the forefront of a campaign calling for sanctions against China over the alleged mass rounding up of Uyghur Muslims.
Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws also had sanctions imposed. Boris Johnson immediately showed his solidarity, saying: “Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them.”
In their letter to Sir Lindsay, seen by The Telegraph, the sanctioned MPS described the measures as “threatening, and an attempt to silence us and our colleagues and undermine the safety of us all”.
They added: “It is unthinkable therefore that parliamentarians should have to suffer this infringement on our liberties whilst the prime representative of the Chinese government in the UK is still apparently free to come to Westminster and to use facilities here as a mouthpiece for his regime.”
Mr Graham, the MP for Gloucester, last night sought to justify issuing the invitation to Mr Zeguang, who took up his post in January, saying: “There was no question of anything being inappropriate. In my view, whatever the circumstances and situation, it is always better to engage than to not engage.”