China has hit out at the UK for barring its ambassador from attending an event in the British parliament, describing the move as "despicable" and "cowardly."
Zheng Zeguang had been due to speak at an event in parliament on Wednesday, but was told by the parliamentary speaker that he could not attend while Beijing’s own sanctions remain in place against a number of MPs and peers.
China placed the sanctions on five British lawmakers, including the former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, in March after they highlighted alleged human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang province.
Beijing accused them of spreading what it said were "lies and disinformation" over the treatment of Uighur Muslims.
China took the action after Britain, the United States, the European Union and Canada imposed parallel sanctions on senior Chinese officials.
Those targeted were accused of the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
This latest flare-up between Beijing and London comes at a time when the two sides have already been trading barbs over a range of issues, including China's reforms in former British colony Hong Kong and China's trade policy.