Let Chinese ambassador into Parliament, Stanley Johnson tells Government

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Stanley Johnson - Jamie Lorriman
Stanley Johnson - Jamie Lorriman

Stanley Johnson has called for China's ambassador to be allowed into Parliament, ahead of a controversial trip to Xinjiang.

Boris Johnson’s father intends to visit the region, home to the persecuted Uyghur minority, as he retraces the steps of Marco Polo.

Mr Johnson said Zheng Zeguang, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, was a very "agreeable, capable and intelligent man" and that he hoped the ban would be lifted.

"If there is a ban, as you say there is, I would imagine Parliament is breaking up for the summer pretty soon. But I would very much hope that by the time Parliament returns, these bans will no longer be in place," Mr Johnson told the South China Morning Post.

He celebrated Mr Zeguang for his "enthusiasm" for the upcoming project and said it had the potential to revamp Chinese-British relations.

The statements contradict the Prime Minister’s push to increase pressure on China for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Mr Johnson has joined European Union, Canada and the United States in sanctioning Chinese officials.

Zheng Zeguang
Zheng Zeguang

The Prime Minister's half-brother, Max, intends to travel with his father on the six-week trip, during which the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV is expected to join for part.

Mr Johnson is planning to retrace the steps of Marco Polo’s route along the Chinese Silk Road, traversing the Xinjiang region where China has been accused of significant human rights violations against the ethnic Muslim population.

Beijing claims it is fighting terrorism in the region, but world leaders say the government is carrying out a genocide. 

Britain’s ban on Mr Zeguang was imposed last year, in what the Government claims was a response to sanctions levelled by Beijing on five Conservative MPs and two peers over its response to human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Nine Britons were sanctioned by Beijing in retaliation, including Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party.

Beijing, which has rebuffed all accusations regarding Xinjiang, accused the group of "maliciously spreading lies and disinformation".

But the Prime Minister's father said he was pleased to be working with China and that the trip was "not a political exercise".

"Anyone who doesn’t want to improve British-Chinese relationships strikes me as being rather narrow-minded," he said.

Sir Iain, Nusrat Ghani and Tim Loughton said in a statement that Mr Johnson was "advancing the interests of a brutal Chinese regime that is committing genocide on the Uyghurs".

"It is sad that he so blatantly uses his family ties for such selfish and self-serving reasons," they added. "As any decent person might remark, a period of silence from him would be most welcome."

When questioned on the backlash, Mr Johnson told the South China Morning Post: "I am not going to comment on this. I don’t live in this world of people saying this and people saying that."

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