The British Parliament decided on Tuesday to lock China’s ambassador to the country in retaliation for Beijing imposing sanctions on British MPs earlier this year.
Zheng Zeguang, who took over the role in July, was due to attend an all-party faction on China meeting, but the invitation was withdrawn Tuesday by House of Commons spokeswoman Lindsay Hoyle.
The Chinese Embassy in London criticized the decision as “despicable and cowardly”.
The move came after Hoyle met last week with a group of MPs affected by the Chinese sanctions Beijing hit on a total of 10 British organizations and individuals in March in response to British sanctions against Chinese officials related to human rights abuses in Xinjiang . The Chinese government said the British officials were punished for spreading “lies and disinformation” about the situation in Xinjiang.
UK MPs wrote to Hoyle after their meeting, asking him to “consider the impact of the visit on all parliamentarians who have to raise their voices as part of their duties in the democratic system we all value”.
In a statement on Tuesday after consulting Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, Hoyle said: “I do not think it appropriate for the Ambassador for China to meet at the House of Commons and at our workplace when his country has imposed sanctions on some of our members. “
The ambassador will be banned from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords while the sanctions remain in place.
Relations between China and Britain have deteriorated in recent years due to Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, technology giant Huawei, and media reports of human rights violations against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang. At the same time, the UK is also trying to convince China to approve its ambitious climate plans at the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year.