Parliament bars China’s ambassador in retaliation for sanctions on MPs who spoke up for Uyghurs
Zheng Zeguang, the ambassador, was due at parliament on Wednesday – but Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and his counterpart in the Lords, John McFall, have blocked him from attending a meeting.
Sir Lindsay said it was not “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”.
“If those sanctions were lifted, then of course this would not be an issue,” the Speaker told MPs.
“I am not saying the meeting cannot go ahead – I am just saying it cannot take place here while those sanctions remain in place.”
Lord McFall’s spokeswoman confirmed that he agreed the meeting “should take place elsewhere considering the current sanctions against members”.
Britain, the US, Canada and the European Union slapped sanctions on Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, in a coordinated action in March.
The action followed reports of one million people detained without trial and widespread claims of torture and rape in camps in the province.
In retaliation, the Chinese announced it would “sanction nine individuals and four entities on the UK side that maliciously spread lies and disinformation”.
Also on the list were fellow Tory MPs Tom Tugendhat, Neil O’Brien, Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani, Labour peer Helena Kennedy, Liberal Democrat peer David Alton, the China Research Group, Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Uyghur Tribunal, and Essex Court Chambers.
“As of today, the individuals concerned and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China, their property in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them. China reserves the right to take further measures,” the statement said.
Sir Iain and a group of his sanctioned colleagues welcomed the ban on the ambassador, saying allowing him to enter would have been “an insult to parliament”.
“We the sanctioned welcome the strong principled stand made by the Speaker and Lord Speaker in standing up for freedom of speech in the mother of parliaments by supporting those parliamentarians who have been sanctioned by China,” they said.
But Richard Graham, the Tory MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on China – which organised the talk – criticised the move, saying it was “very important” for the group to engage.