Sir Iain Duncan-Smith has called for “much tougher” action on China, ahead of the Chinese Vice President’s attendance at the King’s Coronation next week. Han Zheng – the man responsible for China’s clampdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong – will attend the Coronation in the place of President Xi Jinping. Sir Iain accused the Government of “turning a blind eye” to authoritarian regimes, including Iran and China.
He condemned the decision to invite Xi Jinping’s deputy to the King’s Coronation, describing the Chinese government as “abusive” and “dreadful”.
Speaking about Mr Zheng, the former Tory leader said: “This is the individual by the way, let’s get this actually straight, of this abusive, dreadful government that literally is committing genocide, torture, abuse of prosecutions in Hong Kong, of democracy campaigners.
“But this individual isn’t just involved.
“He was deeply guilty of the whole process of persecution of people like Jimmy Lai, and I think the government has been less than strong.
“I have to tell you this, I hate to say it about my government.”
He also suggested some Chinese officials should be sanctioned by the UK.
Sir Iain said: “America has sanctioned 10 people in Hong Kong, who are guilty of that persecution, we have sanctioned absolutely nobody.
“This whole litany of abuse goes on. And what we’re doing at the moment is turning a blind eye to it and I find that terrible.
“I’m sanctioned by China for calling it out. I’ll carry on doing it…this is a terrible regime.
“And we seem to be doing very little to say to them we’ve had enough of it.”
Mr Zheng spearheaded the crackdown on protests in Hong Kong in 2019, which saw thousands of campaigners arrested, many injured and some shot and killed.
Mr Han took a zero-tolerance approach to the protests at the time, labelling them as “extreme and destructive acts”.
A source at the Foreign Office is reported to have said officials are “pretty certain” Mr Han will be attending the Coronation in place of Mr Xi, adding that while heads of state have been invited, it is up to them who they send.
Mr Xi also avoided the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last year, sending China’s then-vice president Wang Qishan in his place instead.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the Coronation guest list, but the King’s relationship with China has been particularly thorny over the years.
Former housing secretary Simon Clarke agreed with Sir Iain’s assessment, accusing the Government of “wilful naivety”.
He said: “Han Zheng, who has led the extinguishing of civil liberties in Hong Kong, ought not to be welcome at the Coronation.
“The Chinese government is acting ever more aggressively in the region and across the wider world, and the UK should make it clear that we utterly deplore the actions they are taking, whether it be against their Uyghur population or in their threats to Taiwan.
“There is a fine line between diplomatic statecraft and wilful naivety.”