China’s ambassador to the UK has been banned from setting foot on the parliamentary estate in a row over Beijing’s decision to sanction some MPs.
Zheng Zeguang had been invited to speak at a reception in parliament by Richard Graham, chair of the all-party parliamentary China group, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
But the invitation was rescinded at the last minute by House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and Lord McFall of Alcluith, the Lord Speaker.
In a statement, Hoyle said: “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.
“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.”
Relations with China have been on a steady decline over alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang province, an issue a number of MPs across the House have been vocal about and see as grounds to boycott next year’s Beijing winter Olympics.
China has branded the allegations “absurd” and recently imposed sanctions on a number of MPs and 10 UK organisations for spreading “lies and disinformation”.
Those under sanction include a number of prominent Tories such as Iain Duncan, chair of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat, Nusrat Ghani, Neil O’Brien and Tim Loughton.
Outlining his reasons for issuing the invitation, Graham told the Telegraph that “whatever the circumstances and situation, it is always better to engage than to not engage”.