The Guardian

New Chinese ambassador barred from parliament

- Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

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.

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