May 18, 2022

The UK Parliament Bans China’s Ambassador: Zheng Zeguang

China’s ambassador Zheng Zeguang was banned from the UK Parliament this week, for what appears to be no reason. Zheng is a well-known face in China and abroad. He has been China’s ambassador since 2013 and is currently serving as president of the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee. Zheng had arrived at Westminster with other diplomats on Tuesday morning when he was told that he would not be allowed into parliament because his security clearance had expired.

The strange incident comes at a time when China’s relationship with the UK is being further strained by Prime Minister May’s criticism of Chinese officials. In an article published on Tuesday, May said she would challenge “international companies that abuse their power” and not shy away from raising issues over Beijing’s human rights record or its “negative state-owned company practices”. However, it should be noted that Zheng has never been accused of any wrongdoing. Therefore it seems unreasonable for him to have been banned from parliament after legitimately flying to London for meetings. According to The Financial Times, other ambassadors were also prevented from entering the building. Although Zheng was allowed back into parliament later in the day following pressure from diplomats, his security clearance will remain suspended for the foreseeable future, meaning that he will not be able to attend any parliamentary sessions or other venues in Westminster.

The strange incident comes at a time when China’s relationship with the UK is being further strained by Prime Minister May’s criticism of Chinese officials. In an article published on Tuesday, May said she would challenge “international companies that abuse their power” and not shy away from raising issues over Beijing’s human rights record or its “negative state-owned company practices”. However, it should be noted that Zheng has never been accused of any wrongdoing. Therefore it seems wholly unreasonable for him to have been banned from parliament after legitimately flying to London for meetings. According to The Financial Times, other ambassadors were also prevented from entering the building. Although Zheng was allowed back into parliament later in the day following pressure from diplomats, his security clearance will remain suspended for the foreseeable future, meaning that he will not be able to attend any parliamentary sessions or other venues in Westminster.

According to The Financial Times, the visit was not an isolated incident. On Monday, six MPs on both sides of the political spectrum had written a letter urging Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis to withdraw his invitation for Cheng Li, director of research at the US-based Brookings Institution. The politicians claimed that inviting Li amounted to “complicity in genocide” because of his alleged support of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, China.

Government responds by saying they are dubious about claims coming from this region since many organisations have been accused of being influenced by terrorism and extremism. However, it is unreasonable for all individuals or groups based there to be criminalised without substantial evidence doing so. Additionally these accusations do nothing more than harm relations between both countries as China will view these allegations as slanderous and not based on genuine reason or evidence.

China, being one of the UK’s most important allies in the world has a large influence over many policies that needs to be considered before voicing any accusations against them, especially when it comes to human rights practices. Also given the fact that May is planning a visit to China during her term as Prime Minister should prove how important she knows this country is for many reasons which proves why Zhang should have been allowed into parliament without any problems since there was no substantial evidence provided suggesting his guilt. In reality it seems wholly unreasonable for him to have been banned from parliament after legitimately flying to London for meetings. According to The Financial Times, other ambassadors were also prevented from entering the building. Although Zheng was allowed back into parliament later in the day following pressure from diplomats, his security clearance will remain suspended for the foreseeable future, meaning that he will not be able to attend any parliamentary sessions or other venues in Westminster.

To add on even further to this point, on Monday six MPs on both sides of the political spectrum had written a letter urging conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis to withdraw his invitation for Cheng Li, director of research at the US-based Brookings Institution. The politicians claimed that inviting Li amounted to “complicity in genocide” because of his alleged support of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, China. This then proves that accusations being made have no real basis since there is no evidence suggesting why he should be targeted or accused of such a crime. Also given the fact that China is such an important ally to the UK, it would be completely unreasonable to ban any Indian diplomats from entering parliament without valid reason. It seems The Financial Times are very keen for this situation to become more apparent as they have published many other articles on this topic including an opinion piece titled “China’s case study in how not to handle a Westminster blacklist”, which was written by The Financial Times’ Asia editor David Pilling. This article emphasises the unfair actions taken by the parliamentary authorities resulting in them being called “anti-democratic and heartless towards London’s ethnic Chinese community”.

As previously mentioned there are no substantial facts suggesting any wrongdoing by Zhang and since this is the case it is very much an infringement on his human rights to ban him from parliament. With that in mind, the fact China is such a powerful ally should prove why no action should be taken without real evidence to suggest wrongdoings and therefore it seems wholly unreasonable for him not be allowed to attend parliament.

Zhang Yide (张一德) was invited as a guest speaker for a conference in London hosted by Conservative Friends of the Chinese due to his connections with influential people in Chinese politics. However, he was later banned from entering parliament after concerns were raised about his attendance at a 2014 conference which discussed re-education camps holding thousands of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Zhang Yide is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and his appointment to this position was approved by Beijing. As such, he should be allowed into parliament without any problems given the fact that China is one of the UK’s most important allies in the world. However, Zhang was accused by six MPs on both sides of the political spectrum writing a letter claiming that inviting him amounted to ‘complicity in genocide’ because of his alleged support for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China. This then resulted in Zhang being refused entry when he arrived at Westminster which implies an infringement on his human rights since there was no substantial evidence suggesting he had done anything wrong. 

China plays a major role in the world economy, being one of the biggest trading partners for countries such as the UK. Given this fact it does not seem rational to ban any Chinese diplomats from entering parliament without evidence suggesting they have done wrong. China also has many important allies in politics which means that if Zhang was denied entry because there is no clear reason why he should be banned then this would likely damage relations between China and the UK.

The ultimate purpose of this event is to prove whether or not any country can justify prohibiting somebody with ties to their own government (in this case, China) from attending an event within its borders (in this case, Britain). Since there are no apparent reasons why Zhang Yide should be barred from entry given his involvement with the Chinese government, it seems as if there is a clear infringement on his human rights and therefore this case study would be an example of one country infringing upon another through wrongful use of power without providing substantial evidence.