UK parliament placed out of bounds for Chinese envoy

A day before he was due to attend a reception at the Parliament House, China’s Ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, has been informed that he cannot come there while Beijing continues to sanction over half-a-dozen lawmakers, reports said on Tuesday.

Zheng was due to attend a House of Commons reception, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China, on Wednesday.

However, after protests from the MPs concerned – five of the House of Commons and two of the House of Lords – the respective presiding officers, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord Speaker Lord McFall announced their decision, the BBC reported.

In the wake of the UK’s decision to impose sanctions against Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China had in March imposed travel bans on five MPs and two peers whom it accused of spreading lies about the country.

The five sanctioned Conservative MPs – Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Tom Tugendhat, Nusrat Ghani, Neil O’Brien and Tim Loughton – had written to the Speaker last week, expressing their concern over the parliamentary group’s invitation to Zheng to its summer party.

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

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

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

“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.”

In a statement, Sir Lindsay said: “I do not feel it’s appropriate for the ambassador of China to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions against some of our members.”

Lord McFall’s spokeswoman said the “meeting should take place elsewhere considering the current sanctions against members, including two members of the Lords”.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “The parliament is independent of the government. It is for the Speaker to decide who is allowed on the parliamentary estate.”

The Chinese Embassy is yet to comment on the issue, the BBC reported.