The Daily Telegraph

Parliament ban for Chinese ambassador

Palace of Westminste­r invitation dropped amid sanctions against MPS over human rights abuses

- By Camilla Tominey ASSOCIATE EDITOR

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.”

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