The Commons Speaker has banned a Chinese delegation from entering the parliamentary estate to pay respects to the Queen as she lies in state in Westminster Hall, but the ban may not be extended to the country’s vice-president.
The delegation accompanying the Chinese vice-president, Wang Qishan, is being banned because seven British parliamentarians have been sanctioned by China for spreading lies and disinformation.
The vice-president is flying 5,000 miles from Beijing to attend the Queen’s funeral, and the decision of the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has been made independently of the palace. He has responsibility for Westminster Hall, where the Queen’s coffin sits. The Speaker’s office initially refused to comment, saying it was a security issue.
The Chinese ambassador to London, Zheng Zeguang, was banned from entering the estate a year ago in a dispute that originates from UK claims that Chinese authorities have suppressed the rights of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. At the time, Hoyle said the ban on the ambassador would remain in place so long as sanctions remained on British MPs.
The Chinese embassy responded to the ambassador’s exclusion saying “the despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the UK parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and cooperation between China and the UK for personal political gains is against the wishes and harmful to the interests of the peoples of both countries”.
Heads of state visiting London for the funeral have been invited in groups to attend the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall ahead of Monday’s service, and to sign a book of condolences at Lancaster House. The ban on the Chinese delegation was first reported by Politico.
In March 2021, the UK placed sanctions for gross human rights abuses on four senior officials and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. China then imposed its reprisals on a group of MPs and academics.
Tim Loughton, one of the Conservative MPs banned by Beijing, said the invitation to China should never have been issued in the first place. “We are not talking about someone that has caused a minor indiscretion. China is a dangerous country,” he said.
Loughton had written to the Speaker in conjunction with the former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the Labour peer Lady Kennedy and the independent peer Lord Alton. They claimed it “would be wholly inappropriate for any representative of the Chinese government to be able to come to the Palace of Westminster’’.
Benedict Rogers, a co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, said: “China is a regime that sits alongside Russia, Belarus and Myanmar that have already not been invited due to their human rights abuses.”
He suggested “the decision may be a legacy of the previous government’s rhetoric and said China was on the Foreign Office invitation list because no one ever thought to change it”.
President Xi, in his message of condolence to the British monarchy, said: “I attach great importance to the development of China-UK relations and stand ready to work with King Charles III, taking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations of ambassadorial level between the two countries as an opportunity, to promote the sound and stable development of bilateral relations for the benefit of the two countries and two peoples.”
In a sign that the Chinese understand the importance of diplomatic protocol, Xi made it clear he was not available to meet the Holy See during the Chinese leader’s brief state visit on Wednesday to Kazakhstan. China had told the Vatican there was not time.