China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom has been barred from entering Parliament after British lawmakers backed by the regime expressed outrage over his planned visit.
According to The Telegraph, Zheng Zeguang was invited to a House of Commons reception on Wednesday hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on China.
However, he has now been barred from entering Parliament after the Speakers of both Houses intervened.
In retaliation for UK sanctions against Chinese officials accused of abusing Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the Chinese regime sanctioned nine British individuals, including politicians, lawyers, and an academic.
Five Conservative MPs—Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith, Neil O’Brien, Tim Loughton, and Nusrat Ghani—and two House of Lords members—Lord David Alton, a cross-bencher, and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy—were among those sanctioned.
Nonetheless, the APPG on China invited Zheng, who became Beijing’s ambassador in London in June, to its summer party on the Commons terrace pavilion overlooking the Thames.
According to the BBC, some of the sanctioned lawmakers wrote to the Speakers last week to express their displeasure with the invitation.
They called it “unthinkable” that “the prime representative of the Chinese government in the UK is still apparently free to come to Westminster and use facilities here as a mouthpiece for his regime,” even after Parliament had been directly targeted by the regime.
In response to the protest, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle stated, “I regularly meet with ambassadors from around the world to establish lasting ties between countries and parliamentarians.” However, I do not believe it is appropriate for the Chinese ambassador to meet on the Commons estate and in our place of work when his country has imposed sanctions on some of our members.”
“Of course, if those sanctions were lifted, this would not be an issue,” he said. “I’m not saying the meeting can’t happen; I’m just saying it can’t happen here while those sanctions are in place.”
A spokeswoman for House of Lords Speaker Lord McFall confirmed that the Speakers of both houses “are in agreement that this particular APPG China meeting should take place elsewhere given the current sanctions against members.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the ruling Conservative Party, and a group of his sanctioned colleagues thanked the Speakers for their “strong principled stand,” saying that allowing the diplomat onto the estate would have been “an insult to Parliament.”
“We the Sanctioned welcome the Speaker and Lord Speaker’s strong principled stand for freedom of speech in the mother of Parliaments by supporting those Parliamentarians sanctioned by China,” they said in a joint statement.
However, Richard Graham, the Conservative MP who chairs the APPG on China, expressed “regret” that the meeting would have to be postponed.
Graham argued that “the best way to discuss issues is to engage,” and that hearing from the new ambassador was “very important” for the group.