China’s ambassador to the UK has been banned from going to an event in the British parliament since Beijing imposed sanctions on MPs after they stood in opposition to alleged human rights abuses coordinated at the minority Uighurs in the far western region of Xinjiang.
Zheng Zeguang was expected to go to a Commons reception on Wednesday, hosted by the all-party group on China. Yet, after protests, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord Speaker Lord McFall precluded this.
China set the sanctions on nine British politicians, lawyers, and an academic in March for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in the country’s far west.
Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker of the House of Commons, and John McFall, the speaker of the House of Lords, said it would not be “appropriate” for Zheng Zeguang to talk at an event in parliament while individuals were dependent upon Chinese sanctions. The ban was set up on Tuesday.
The Chinese embassy said it was a “despicable and cowardly” decision that would hurt the two countries’ interests.
The ban, which was first detailed by the Daily Telegraph, comes when pressures between the two governments are high.
In March, China imposed travel bans and asset freezes on five MPs and two peers whom it blamed for spreading lies about the country.
This was because the UK decided to impose its first sanctions against Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Notwithstanding this, the China parliamentary group actually chose to invite Mr. Zheng to its summer party on the Commons terrace pavilion disregarding the Thames.
Last week, the five Conservative MPs who were sanctioned – Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Tom Tugendhat, Nusrat Ghani, Neil O’Brien, and Tim Loughton – kept in touch with the Speaker voicing their concerns.
The two sanctioned peers – crossbencher Lord Alton and Labor’s Baroness Kennedy – wrote to the Lord Speaker.
“I regularly hold meetings with ambassadors from across the world to establish enduring ties between countries and parliamentarians,” Mr. Hoyle said.
“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.”
A Chinese consulate representative censured the move.
“The despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the UK parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and co-operation 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 Chinese statement said.
Mr. Hoyle said he was not banning the Chinese ambassador permanently however just while the sanctions stayed in place.
Richard Graham, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary China Group, had given an invitation to Mr. Zeguang during the summer, the Daily Telegraph said.
Mr. Graham didn’t react to a request for comment.
The All-Party Parliamentary China Group declined to comment.
China sanctioned five UK MPs including previous Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
The designated people and their close relatives are precluded from entering the Chinese region and Chinese residents and institutions are disallowed from working with them.
China took the action after the UK, the United States, the European Union, and Canada imposed parallel sanctions on senior Chinese authorities blamed for the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Tim Loughton, a Conservative politician targeted by the sanctions, invited the decision to banish the ambassador from the event.
He said China couldn’t figure “they can shut down free speech by parliamentarians in a democracy”.
At the time the approvals were forced, the UK censured the move as an attempt by China to smother analysis.
Authorities in London and Beijing have been trading furious words over a range of issues, incorporating China’s changes in previous British colony Hong Kong and China’s trade policy.
Activists and UN rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been confined in camps in Xinjiang.
The activists and some foreign politicians blame China for using torment, forced labor, and sterilization.
China’s government has more than once denied all allegations of misuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are expected to battle fanaticism.