LONDON — A visiting Chinese delegation has been allowed to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state following a U-turn by U.K. parliamentary authorities.
Vice President Wang Qishan and three other representatives of the Chinese government were invited into Westminster Hall, which forms part of the Houses of Parliament, on Sunday afternoon.
POLITICO revealed on Thursday that Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, had rebuffed a request by Chinese government representatives to witness the ceremony because of Beijing’s sanctions on seven British parliamentarians.
China’s ambassador to the U.K. Zheng Zeguang has been barred from parliament for the past year because of the sanctions, which China imposed on MPs and peers it accused of spreading “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Access to Westminster Hall is not the sole jurisdiction of the Commons speaker but is shared with the Lords speaker, John McFall, and the lord great chamberlain, who is appointed by the monarch. On Saturday, parliamentary authorities announced that the Chinese delegation would be allowed into the lying-in-state after all.
A spokesperson for parliament said: “The head of states (or their representatives) who have been invited to attend the state funeral in Westminster Abbey are also invited to attend the lying in state in Westminster Hall.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader who is among those sanctioned by Beijing, claimed on Saturday that the “establishment” had “leant” on Hoyle to make him change his decision.
“The people that win at the end of the day, are the Chinese Communist party which is a brutal, dictatorial and anti-human rights organisation and all we’ve done is given them another victory,” Duncan Smith told the Telegraph.
Asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg whether he had indeed been “leant on” to change his decision, Hoyle replied: “I couldn’t say — nobody has been leaning on me at all, far from it.”
He added: “My view remains the same, that we would not welcome reception in parliament and that’s why I stopped the ambassador and accredited Chinese from coming into the House of Commons … My view remains the same. Nothing has changed.”
But he said: “This is not about the politics at the moment — this is about the grief that we all share.”
The ban on the Chinese ambassador entering parliament remains in place.