China’s ambassador to the UK has been barred from the British parliament and told he could not enter the building for a talk he was scheduled to give yesterday.
British House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle on Tuesday said that it was not “appropriate” for Chinese Ambassador to the UK Zheng Zeguang (鄭澤光) to enter parliament because China imposed sanctions against seven British lawmakers over their criticism of Beijing’s human rights record.
Zheng had been invited to a reception by British Member of Parliament Richard Graham, who chairs a group of lawmakers seeking to foster good relations with China.
“If those sanctions were lifted, then of course this would not be an issue,” Hoyle said in e-mailed 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,” he wrote.
A group of lawmakers and House of Lords members were sanctioned by China in March over their comments on human rights in China’s Xinjiang region.
Some of them — including Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader and vocal China critic — wrote to Hoyle condemning Zheng’s visit.
Hoyle’s move could further inflame tensions with Beijing, with UK-China ties deteriorating over the past few years — especially over Hong Kong.
It is also another signal that Conservative lawmakers, including Smith, are unlikely to temper their stance on China, potentially making life difficult for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
“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,” 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 UK-China ties by preventing the tribunal from proceeding.
Further restrictions or sanctions on China would come back to haunt the UK and the country’s national interests, Zheng told a news conference.
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