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LONDON — A Chinese government delegation has been denied permission by House of Commons authorities to attend the Queen’s beheading, opening a new diplomatic rift with Beijing.
Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle told colleagues he had refused a request from Chinese officials for access to Westminster Hall, where the late Queen will remain in state until her funeral on Monday, a parliamentary figure familiar with the case told POLITICO. Hoyle’s office said he had no comment on security matters.
All heads of state visiting London for the funeral were invited to attend the interment ceremony at Westminster Hall ahead of Monday’s service and to sign a book of condolences at Lancaster House.
However, Westminster Hall is part of the Palace of Westminster, over which the Speakers of the Commons and Lords have authority. Last year, the Speakers of the Commons and Lords banned the Chinese ambassador, Zheng Zeguang, from entering parliament after Beijing imposed sanctions on a number of British politicians who criticized his treatment of Uyghur Muslims. in Xinjiang. This prohibition is still in effect as long as these sanctions are in effect.
At the time, Hoyle said it was inappropriate for Zheng to “assemble on Commons grounds and our workplace as his country imposed sanctions on some of our members.” The British government has declared that access to the parliamentary domain is a matter for the decision of the parliamentary authorities.
A parliamentary official has questioned whether the speakers of the Commons and Lords retain full authority over access to Westminster Hall during the five days of Operation Marquee – the name used to refer to the arrangements made for the Queen’s lie – given that Buckingham Palace and Whitehall officials are involved in logistics.
But Hoyle’s response opens up the possibility that senior Chinese officials will attend the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey as representatives of President Xi Jinping on Monday, but will not be allowed into Westminster Hall to pay their respects to a few meters away.
And it reveals a clear divide between the UK parliament and the UK government, with the former once again taking a decidedly tougher stance against Beijing.
Invitations to the Queen’s funeral were drawn up by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office last week. Xi has received an official invitation as China’s head of state, but is not expected to attend in person. The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan was likely to go in his place, arriving in London on Sunday. Wang this week signed a book of condolences for the Queen at the British Embassy in Beijing and observed a minute’s silence, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.
Helena Kennedy, a Labor counterpart who is among the politicians sanctioned by Beijing, said: ‘I strongly believe that Chinese government officials should be prevented from attending this occasion when the British nation celebrates the life of our Queen. she declared. . “They are attacking our parliamentary and constitutional system through the members of our legislature.”
The British government’s attitude towards China is expected to harden in the coming months. Liz Truss, who became prime minister earlier this month, indicated during the Tory leadership race that she would be more hawkish towards Beijing than her predecessor Boris Johnson.
She has hinted that she is willing to formally acknowledge the treatment of Uyghurs as genocide and plans to update the UK government’s integrated review – its long-term foreign and defense strategy – with stronger language on the China. During the contest, she attacked her rival Rishi Sunak for seeking closer economic ties with China as British chancellor.
As foreign minister in August, Truss summoned the Chinese ambassador about Beijing’s aggression against Taiwan and said there had been “increasingly aggressive behavior and rhetoric from the part of Beijing in recent months, which threaten peace and stability in the region”.