London rejects Chinese Embassy expansion citing security and preservation

Police intervene in Chinese Consulate - Credit [email protected]

London councillors overwhelmingly rejected the Chinese Embassy’s planned expansion in London using the old Royal Mint building that it had acquired in Tower Hamlets.

The decision is seen as a major setback for the Chinese who currently operate from a townhouse in Central London further damaging once-promising ties between the two countries.

A spokesperson for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets confirmed on Saturday, December 3 that the councillors had cited the need to protect the 14th century building, but that the main concern was that of security.

In particular reference was made to the growing number of protests outside the Embassy, as well as the possibility of terrorist attacks. This comes as a dispute continues over excessive use of force by consulate officials in Manchester and the beating of a BBC journalist covering the COVID-19 protests. It also follows claims that the country is running a “police station” in the UK.

Had the plan been approved the Royal Mint would have become home to the largest Embassy in the UK.

Peter Golds, a local councillor, told NPR News: “It was a big defeat for them tonight.

“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s real people power.”

According to the spokesperson the Chinese focused on the planning at the hearing, however, other speakers focused on the behaviour of Chinese officials on British soil and their human rights record at home.

Among those given the opportunity to speak was Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong activist who was detained by Chinese mainland authorities in 2019. At the time he was working for the British Consulate in Hong Kong and eventually he was able to flee, making his way back to London.

He said: “We should not compromise and grant an authoritarian state the power to upgrade their facilities to suppress dissenting thoughts in the U.K.

Councillor Shafi Ahmed said that in spite of all that had been said, the council had made its decision based on the merits. But he added, we are in an area where there is a large Muslim population and that will have impacted the decision.

But in his area of Tower Hamlets, which has a large Muslim population, the community also sympathizes with the persecuted Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in China.

Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to London, said at the time the building was acquired back in 2018 that: “I hope our two countries will work together to write a new chapter for the China-U.K. ‘golden era.'” 

Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Prime Minister, said that the golden era was over, and that the UK would be taking a different path when it comes to cooperating and dealing with China.

The Chinese government can appeal the decision wherein London rejected the expansion of the embassy citing security and preservation concerns.


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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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