China’s ambassador banned from entering British Parliament

London: China’s ambassador to the UK has been blocked from visiting the British Parliament in a dramatic escalation of tensions between leading China hawks and the Chinese Communist Party.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle revoked an invitation to China’s ambassador Zheng Zeguang to visit the Palace of Westminster as a special guest on Wednesday night.

Last week, the five Conservative MPs who were sanctioned – Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Tom Tugendhat, Nusrat Ghani, Neil O’Brien and Tim Loughton – wrote to the Speaker voicing their concerns.

The two sanctioned peers – crossbencher Lord Alton and Labour’s Baroness Kennedy – wrote to the Lord Speaker.

They said: “The sanctions imposed by the Chinese government represent an attack not just on members directly targeted but on Parliament, all parliamentarians, select committees, and parliamentary privilege.

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“We should never allow our place of work to become a platform to validate and promote such sanctions.

“We know that this is a view shared by a great many Right Honourable and Honourable Members who will wish their protests to be heard if this visit is to go ahead.”

They added: “It is unthinkable therefore that parliamentarians should have to suffer this infringement on our liberties whilst the prime representative of the Chinese government in the UK is still apparently free to come to Westminster and to use facilities here as a mouthpiece for his regime.”

Nusrat Ghani welcomed the “unprecedented” ban on the ambassador, telling BBC News: “Sanctioning MPs is a direct threat to Parliament and our democracy.

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“We will not be silenced nor intimidated by any regime, and our Parliament will not be become a tool of propaganda for Chinese Communist Party absurd sanctions.”

Another sanctioned MP, Tim Loughton, tweeted: “If the genocidal Chinese regime think they can shut down free speech by parliamentarians in a democracy there are consequences and in this case it is that the Chinese regime must not have a platform in the Mother of Parliaments.”

“I regularly hold meetings with ambassadors from across the world to establish enduring ties between countries and 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,” Hoyle said.

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“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.”

The All Party Parliamentary China Group declined to comment.

Zheng is a relatively new entrant to the British diplomatic scene, having replaced Liu Xiaoming this year. He held his first meeting with the Foreign Secretary in July.

He enters at a low ebb in Sino-British relations compared to the so-called Golden Era when Xi Jinping visited the UK in 2015.