UK parliament bars China envoy after MPs sanctioned

By: AFP      Published: 10:44 PM, 14 Sep, 2021
UK parliament bars China envoy after MPs sanctioned

Leaders in the UK parliament on Tuesday barred a visit by China's new ambassador after Beijing slapped sanctions against critical British MPs. 

Envoy Zheng Zeguang was due to address a group of members drawn from both the houses of Commons and Lords this week who work on promoting UK-China relations.

But Iain Duncan Smith -- one of nine MPs sanctioned by China for vocally opposing Communist Party policies, particularly affecting Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang -- had said the visit would be "reprehensible".

Among the sanctions imposed on the parliamentarians and their family members in March were a travel ban prohibiting them from entering mainland China or the former UK colony of Hong Kong.

Duncan Smith and others on the sanctions list wrote to Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, demanding he bar Zheng from speaking on parliamentary premises. 

In a statement, Hoyle responded by noting he regularly met with ambassadors from around the world to further ties among parliamentarians.  

"But I do not feel it's appropriate for the ambassador for China to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions against some of our members," he said.

"If those sanctions were lifted, then of course this would not be an issue.  

"I am not saying the meeting cannot go ahead -- I am just saying it cannot take place here while those sanctions remain in place." 

Speaker of the House of Lords John McFall issued similar language. There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in London.

Zheng's predecessor Liu Xiaoming, one of a new breed of "wolf warrior" diplomats deployed by Beijing, was noted for inflammatory language on social media attacking UK critics of Chinese policies.

Richard Graham, Conservative chairman of the UK all-party parliamentary group on China, had expressed hope that Zheng would take a "slightly more nuanced approach to his role than his predecessor".

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