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Thursday, February 22, 2024

UK MPs angry over invitation to China for Queen’s funeral


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London: The Chinese government’s invitation to the Queen’s funeral should be withdrawn, some UK MPs and peers have said. They said it was “extraordinary” that the “architects” of genocide against the Uyghur minority had been invited.

Senior Tory MPs Tim Loughton and Sir Iain Duncan Smith are among those who have written to the foreign secretary to express concern.

China’s President Xi Jinping is on the guest list for the state funeral but is not thought likely to attend. His visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan this week mark the first time he has left China since the start of the Covid pandemic.

UK Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was for the Palace to set out the guest list and the convention was that countries with whom the UK has diplomatic relations were invited to send representatives.

The South China Morning Post has reported that Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan is expected to attend the funeral, citing diplomatic sources.

On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said Beijing was “considering sending a high-level delegation” to the funeral, although no more details have been provided.

Some 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries, including US President Joe Biden, are expected to attend the Monday funeral.

However, representatives from Russia and Belarus have not been invited because of the invasion of Ukraine, nor has anyone from Myanmar because of a breakdown in diplomatic relations following last year’s military coup.

Representatives from Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan are also not on the guest list, government sources have told the BBC, and North Korea, Iran and Nicaragua have only been invited to send ambassadors.

The letter to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, which was first reported by Politico, was also signed by Crossbench peer Lord Alton and Labour peer Baroness Kennedy.

All the signatories have been sanctioned by China for their vocal criticism of the country, particularly over its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority group.

Last year, the House of Commons declared that a genocide was taking place against the Uyghurs in north-west China, with more than a million people estimated to have been detained at camps in the region of Xinjiang. China has denied the allegations, claiming the camps are “re-education” facilities used to combat terrorism.

In their letter, the MPs and peers wrote: “We are greatly concerned to hear that the government of China has been invited to attend the state funeral next week, despite other countries Russia, Belarus and Myanmar being excluded.

“Given that the United Kingdom Parliament has voted to recognise the genocide committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghur people it is extraordinary that the architects of that genocide should be treated in any more favourable way than those countries who have been barred.”

They added that it was “particularly inappropriate”, given seven parliamentarians had been sanctioned by the Chinese government and the ambassador had been barred from attending the Palace of Westminster.

“I hope you will agree that it would be wholly inappropriate that any representative of the Chinese government should be able to attend such an important occasion as the state funeral of our late monarch and that you can give us your assurance that the invitation will be immediately withdrawn,” the letter added.

The group have also written to the Lords and Commons speakers seeking assurances that no representative of the Chinese government would be allowed to come to the Palace of Westminster, saying this would be “wholly inappropriate”.

However, the decision to invite China was defended by Lord McDonald, the former top civil servant in the Foreign Office.

McDonald told the BBC the funeral was “something bigger than even important rows over key issues like human rights and Hong Kong”.

“This is an event to show the Chinese at the highest level the essence of what the UK is about. We’re not making any concession by including them, we are showing the essentials of the United Kingdom,” he added.

President Xi was among the world leaders who expressed his condolences following the Queen’s death, noting she was the first British monarch to visit China.

According to state media, the Chinese president said he attached “great importance” to relations between the two countries and was “ready to work with King Charles III… to promote the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations”.

On Monday Wang also visited the British embassy in Beijing with Britain’s ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, to sign a book of condolence for the Queen, the BBC said.

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