China Blasts ‘Despicable’ U.K. Move to Ban Envoy From Parliament
(Bloomberg) -- China’s embassy in London condemned as “despicable and cowardly” the U.K. speaker’s decision to ban its new ambassador from parliament, as a dispute over human rights between the two sides deepens.
Ambassador Zheng Zeguang was prevented from a meeting in the U.K. Parliament on Wednesday after the invitation sparked outrage among British politicians sanctioned by China. Zheng had been invited to a reception by Conservative member Richard Graham, who chairs a group of lawmakers seeking to foster good relations with China.
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle barred the visit, saying it wasn’t “appropriate” for the envoy to visit the Parliament estate.
“If those sanctions were lifted, then of course this would not be an issue,” Hoyle said in emailed statement. “I am not saying the meeting cannot go ahead -- I am just saying it cannot take place here while those sanctions remain in place.”
A group of MPs and House of Lords members were sanctioned by China in March over their comments on human rights in Xinjiang. Some of them including Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and vocal China critic, wrote to Hoyle condemning Zheng’s visit.
Hoyle’s move could further inflame tensions with Beijing, with U.K.-China ties deteriorating in recent years -- especially over Hong Kong. It’s also another signal that Tory MPs including Smith are unlikely to temper their stance on China, potentially making life difficult for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
“The despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the U.K. Parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and cooperation between China and the U.K. for personal political gains is against the wishes and harmful to the interests of the peoples of both countries,” a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London said in a statement.
The latest row comes following hearings by the Uyghur Tribunal in London over allegations of genocide in Xinjiang. The proceedings by a group of lawyers, academics and former diplomats have no government backing and its conclusions are non-binding.
Last week, Zheng urged the British government to ensure U.K.-China ties by prevent the tribunal from proceeding. Further restrictions or sanctions on China would come back to haunt the U.K. and the country’s national interests, Zheng told a news conference.
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