The Foreign Office appears to be at sixes and sevens on its policy towards China, after it flip flopping over whether it had invited Chinese premier Xi Jinping to the Queen’s funeral or not.
First, it appeared that Xi was on the list. But then, according to Politico, the foreign secretary James Cleverly had told a colleague in a message that only the Chinese ambassador had received an invitation.
This prompted the Foreign Office to clarify the situation, making clear that, contrary to Cleverly’s message, Xi had been invited to the funeral, but wasn’t turning up anyway.
Countries that will only be represented at ambassador level are those that have somewhat frosty relations with Britain: Iran, North Korea and Nicaragua. While some nations have been snubbed altogether: Russia and Belarus received no form of invite due to the war in Ukraine. Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Myanmar also failed to make the cut.
Yet Xi, like all other heads of states whose countries with which Britain has full diplomatic relations with, received an invitation. Some MPs aren’t too pleased about this.
Former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith called the invitation “astonishing”, adding that China has “a huge record of human rights abuses, including what we believe to be genocide, smashing churches and persecuting Christians.”
In a letter to the speakers of the Houses of Commons and Lords, a number of MPs who have been sanctioned by China complained that: “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.”
China, meanwhile, says it is “actively considering” having a high-level delegation attend the funeral.
Indian PM Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also won’t be in attendance, despite receiving invitations, having delegated the visit to other members of their governments.
On the friendlier side of things, many close allies have confirmed their attendance, with Australia’s PM Anthony Albanese, New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern, Canadian president Justin Trudeau all making the journey.
Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden are both set to arrive in the UK. The American president will even receive special consideration, allowing him to bring his own state car known as “The beast.”
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Biden, in fact, will be the most protected person at the funeral, as set to arrive in the UK with some 400 security personnel in tow.
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