(Bloomberg) -- The new Chinese ambassador in London Zheng Zeguang was banned from a meeting in the U.K. Parliament after his invitation sparked outrage among British politicians placed under sanctions by China.
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Tuesday it is not “appropriate” for the envoy to visit the Parliament estate. Zheng had been invited to a reception by Conservative member of Parliament Richard Graham, who chairs a group of lawmakers seeking to foster good relations with China.
China Slaps Sanctions on U.K. Lawmakers Over Xinjiang Claims (2)
A group of MPs and members of the House of Lords 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 who is a vocal critic of China, wrote to Hoyle condemning Zheng’s visit.
“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.”
Though largely tit-for-tat in nature, Hoyle’s move could further inflame tensions with Beijing, with U.K.-China ties deteriorating significantly in recent years -- especially over Hong Kong. It’s also another signal that Tory MPs including Duncan 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 Uighur Tribunal in London over allegations of genocide in Xinjiang.
Last week Zheng said the British government should not allow the tribunal to spread fabrications about what’s happening in Xinjiang and urged London to safeguard U.K.-China relations by taking actions in the “right direction.”
Further restrictions or sanctions on China would come back to haunt the U.K. and the country’s national interests, he told a news conference.
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