New Chinese ambassador barred from parliament
The new Chinese ambassador to the UK has been barred from parliament by the Speakers of the Commons and the Lords after the imposition of sanctions on British MPs by Beijing.
Zheng Zeguang was due to attend a meeting of the broadly pro-Chinese all-party group on China, but following a letter from MPs who were sanctioned by China, including the former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has said the meeting is not appropriate.
A similar decision was endorsed by the Lords Speaker, Lord McFall.
Hoyle met a group of the MPs targeted by China last week and they implored him to consider “the implications of the visit for all parliamentarians who need to be able to speak out as part of their duties in the democratic system we all cherish”.
They urged him to ban the ambassador from the parliamentary estate until the sanctions are lifted.
It is understood that the Foreign Office said the decision was a matter for the Speaker, not the government.
Hoyle said he was not banning the ambassador permanently, but only while the sanctions existed. China sanctioned MPs and academics in March after the UK government imposed sanctions on Chinese officials it said were responsible for the mistreatment of the Uyghur people.
A Chinese embassy spokesman condemned the move last night, saying: “The despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the UK parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and cooperation between China and the UK for personal political gains is against the wishes and harmful to the interests of the peoples of both countries.”
The clash comes at a sensitive time in UK-China relations as the UK seeks China’s endorsement of ambitious carbon-reduction targets at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow.
The MPs – Duncan Smith, Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton and Tom Tugendhat – said China had “made no attempt to reverse the sanctions, which are a tool to criminalise individuals and limit their freedom internationally. Indeed the Chinese government has taken steps to give legal force to the sanctions rendering us potentially vulnerable to prosecution by the Chinese authorities.”
They said it was unthinkable for the prime representative of China to be free to use Westminster’s facilities as a mouthpiece for his regime.