The British Parliament on Tuesday decided to ban the Chinese ambassador to the country in retaliation for Beijing’s imposition of sanctions on British MPs earlier this year.
Zheng Zeguang – who took office in July – was due to attend a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on China, but the invitation was canceled on Tuesday by House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle.
The Chinese Embassy in London criticized the decision, calling it “despicable and cowardly”.
The move came after Hoyle last week met with a group of MPs targeted by Chinese sanctions, whom Beijing slapped on a total of 10 British organizations and individuals in March in response to British sanctions against Chinese officials linked to violations. of human rights in Xinjiang. The Chinese government said British officials had been punished for spreading “lies and disinformation” about the situation in Xinjiang.
British MPs wrote to Hoyle after their meeting, urging him to consider “the implications of the visit for all parliamentarians who need to be able to speak out in the course of their duties in the democratic system we all cherish”.
In a statement Tuesday after consulting with Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, Hoyle said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Chinese Ambassador to meet on the Commons estate and at our workplace when his country has imposed sanctions on some of our members. “
The ambassador will be banned from the House of Commons and the House of Lords as long as the sanctions are maintained.
Relations between China and the UK have deteriorated in recent years due to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, tech giant Huawei, and media reports of human rights violations against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang . At the same time, the UK is also trying to persuade China to endorse its ambitious climate plans at the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year.