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Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said a political row with China should not “overshadow” the Queen’s state funeral, which he described as the “most important event the world will ever see”.
Hoyle made the comment after he denied he had been “leant on” to allow Chinese officials to attend the Queen’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall.
Politico reported earlier in the week that thegroup from Beijing had been refused permission by the Commons authorities to attend the lying-in-state after Hoyle intervened.
There have been tensions between Westminster and China ever since the country imposed sanctions on MPs who have spoken out against the alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.
Initially it was understood that a Chinese delegation would be able to attend the funeral but that they would not be permitted access to the lying-in-state.
However, there has been confusion after a parliamentary spokesman said on Saturday that foreign representatives “invited to attend the state funeral in Westminster Abbey are also invited to attend the lying in state”.
It led to Iain Duncan Smith, one of the MPs sanctioned by China, claiming in the Telegraph that the “establishment” had “leant” on Hoyle to force him to admit a Chinese delegation into Westminster Hall.
“It’s clear and obvious that the establishment leant on the Speakers to give way,” he told the newspaper.
“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.
“It looks like appeasement is back, alive and well in the British establishment.”
But today Hoyle denied that he had been “leant” on and said the Chinese ambassador and accredited officials remain barred from the House of Commons.
Hoyle told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “Nobody has been leaning on me at all. Far from it.
“My view remains the same, that we would not welcome a reception in parliament. And that’s when I stopped the ambassador and accredited Chinese from coming into the House of Commons.
“So let’s be clear, to hold a reception in the House of Commons when MPs and a peer has been sanctioned is not acceptable. My view remains the same and nothing has changed.
“The sanction against those accredited officials remains in place and will remain so.”
Trying to take the heat out the row, Hoyle said: “We should not allow anything to overshadow the most important event the world will ever see — and that’s the funeral of her Majesty”.
I like Lindsay Hoyle BUT the funeral of Her Majesty is NOT “the most important event the world will ever see”
— nazir afzal (@nazirafzal) September 18, 2022
He added: “The passing of her Majesty has brought people together, so we shouldn’t be distracted by others, and I think that’s the problem that we’re seeing.
“People always want a different story and a different angle. What I want to do is keep focused — this is about the royal family, this is about their grief, this is about the people of this country coming together to pay their respects.”
In a letter to Hoyle and Lord Speaker, Lord McFall, Tim Loughton and Iain Duncan Smith said it was “extraordinary” that Chinese representatives had received an invitation.
The letter read: “Given that the United Kingdom parliament has voted to recognise the genocide committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghur people it is extraordinary that the architects of that genocide should be treated in any more favourable way than those countries who have been barred.”
Last September, Hoyle and Lord McFall blocked the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, from visiting parliament.
At the time Hoyle argued that it would not be “appropriate” for the ambassador to meet at the Commons while seven British parliamentarians remain sanctioned.
It is understood the Chinese ambassador is still not welcome in parliament.
Chinese president Xi Jinping is not scheduled to attend the Westminster Abbey service on Monday and will instead send his deputy, Wang Qishan, instead.
Invitations to the Queen’s state funeral have also not been sent to Russia, Belarus or Myanmar, while Iran will only be represented at an ambassadorial level, it is understood.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.