A Chinese government delegation has been banned from attending the lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth II.
House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is said to have refused a request for access to Westminster Hall over Chinese sanctions against five MPs and two peers.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning , revealed that she is yet to see reports about the ban, which first emerged on the Politico website.
“As a host, the UK is certainly familiar with diplomatic protocols and proper manners of receiving guests.”Mao Ning
Last year, China imposed travel bans and asset freezes on nine Britons, including seven parliamentarians for accusing Beijing of mistreating Uighur Muslims. This led to China’s ambassador to the UK being banned from Parliament – a move which has now been extended to a delegation that wanted to pay its respect at Queen Elizabeth’s lying-in-state.
UK-China relations are already strained and the ban is unlikely to help. Nonetheless, China’s Vice President is expected to attend Monday’s state funeral which will be held across the road from Parliament at Westminster Abbey.
According to the parliamentary rule book ‘Erskine May’, in 1965 Queen Elizabeth II consented that control of Westminster Hall would be shared between the Lord Great Chamberlain who is appointed by the monarch and the speakers of both the Commons and the Lords.
There is however no specific mention regarding control of access for an occasion such as a lying-in-state, but when it comes to invitations to foreign dignitaries to address both Houses in Westminster Hall, these are issued by the agreement of all three.
Invitation to China to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral
On Thursday, September 15, 2022, the group of seven MPs and peers, including former Tory ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Tim Loughton, urged the Foreign Secretary to withdraw an invitation to President Xi of China to attend the Queen’s funeral.
In a letter, they said it would be “wholly inappropriate” for the Chinese government to be represented, given its human rights record.
Last September, Sir Lindsay and Lord’s Speaker Lord McFall, told China’s ambassador to the UK he could not come to Parliament because of Beijing’s sanctions. At the time, the ban was criticised by the Chinese government as “despicable and cowardly”.
Meanwhile, several western countries have imposed sanctions on officials in China following rights abuse allegations against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority group. China has detained Uighurs at camps in the north-west region of Xinjiang, where allegations of torture, forced labour and sexual abuse have emerged.
China has however denied the allegations of abuse, claiming the camps are “re-education” facilities used to combat terrorism.
President Xi Jinping is on the guest list for the state funeral but is not thought likely to attend. British officials expect the country will instead be represented by Vice President Wang Qishan.
A Downing Street spokesman stated that it was a convention that countries with which the UK has diplomatic relations should be invited to state funerals.