Chinese official’s attendance at coronation would be outrageous, Tory MPs say

The Chinese vice-president expected to attend oversaw Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s liberties.

Senior Conservative MPs have labelled the expected attendance of China’s vice-president at the King’s coronation as “outrageous”.

Han Zheng, who was recently appointed as president Xi Jinping’s deputy, is set to represent China at the May event, Politico reported.

Former Tory leader and longstanding China-critic Sir Iain Duncan Smith described him as “responsible for trashing” China’s Hong Kong treaty with Britain by overseeing a crackdown on the territory’s freedoms.

Tim Loughton, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said his presence would be “an insult to the freedom loving people” of Hong Kong.

Mr Han led Hong Kong affairs for Beijing between 2018 and March this year, during which time it imposed the national security law following mass protests in the city, stifling opposition and criminalising dissent.

The move strained relations with the UK, and led to the creation of a visa scheme allowing Hong Kongers to come to Britain.

Mr Han’s attendance at the celebrations for the King will further antagonise Tory China hawks already angered by the Government’s approach to Beijing.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK must engage directly with China in a speech on Tuesday, calling for a constructive but robust relationship.

Sir Iain told the PA news agency: “This is the man responsible for trashing the international treaty – the Sino British accord. In the course of which the Hong Kong authorities have persecuted peaceful democracy campaigners.

“Having this man here given his role is outrageous.”

Mr Loughton said: “We have lobbied ministers not to allow this. It would be an insult to the freedom loving people of HK.”

Serious concerns were previously raised when an invitation to the Queen’s funeral was extended to representatives from China last September.

Beijing was ultimately represented by Mr Han’s predecessor, Wang Qishan, at the state funeral, while a delegation from the country also attended the Queen’s lying in state in Westminster Hall.

Queen Elizabeth II funeral
Wang Qishan, China’s then-vice-president, at the Queen’s state funeral (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “The Foreign Office have an approach on how invites are decided.

“You will see a whole host and a wide array of world leaders.”

Asked if Rishi Sunak would meet the Chinese official, the spokesman said: “I’m not aware of any plans.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which declined to comment, has extended invitations to the coronation to the heads of state of all nations with whom the UK has full diplomatic relations.

The UK says China remains in breach of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which it had a duty to uphold Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms.

Hong Kong was handed over from the UK to China in 1997 with a promise by Beijing to keep Western-style liberties under a “one country, two systems” framework.

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