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Sadiq Khan will not intervene in Chinese embassy plans for east London

Sadiq Khan will not intervene in Chinese embassy plans for east London

China’s controversial bid to build its new embassy was previously blocked by Tower Hamlets and must now go to central Government for a decision
Sadiq Khan has confirmed he will not intervene in plans for a new Chinese "super embassy" in east London.

China's bid to build a fortress on a sprawling complex opposite the Tower of London was blocked by Tower Hamlets council in December following fierce opposition from locals.

The Mayor of London of London had six weeks to issue a direction to approve or reject the application after the council referred its “minded-to-refuse” decision to City Hall.

The Greater London Authority has confirmed Mr Khan will not use his planning powers to determine the application for the former Royal Mint site.

It means the controversial development will now be referred to central government to decide.

A report by the GLA said: “Having regard to the details of the application, the matters set out in the committee report and Tower Hamlets Council’s draft decision notice there are no sound planning reasons for the mayor to intervene in this particular case."

China bought the 700,000 sq ft complex for £255 million in 2018.

The country wants to develop it into one of the world's largest embassies.

But a 74-page planning application revealed residents’ concerns, with some highlighting the “violent assault of protesters” at the Chinese consulate in Manchester last year and others fearing the building could become a “secret police station”.

Tower Hamlets, which has the largest Muslim population in the UK, also raised concerns about the treatment of Uighur and other Muslim minorities in the country.

It comes as an argument broke out in the House of Commons on Thursday over the possibility a Chinese official from Xinjiang could visit the UK.

The Government insisted it has not invited the region's governor, Erkin Tuniyaz, and will challenge him on human rights violations against the Uighurs if he does travel to Britain.

Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty was pressed to ensure the UK Government either sanctions the governor, denies him a visa, or seeks his arrest should he arrive in the country.

Answering an urgent question on reports of the visit from Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Docherty told the Commons: "We understand from the Chinese embassy that the governor of Xinjiang may visit the UK next week.

"To be very clear he has not been invited by the UK Government or by the FCDO and we have no confirmation that he will in fact travel.

"Our expectation is that he will be travelling on a diplomatic passport, and has not yet been granted, therefore, a visa. If he does visit I can assure this House that under no circumstances will he be dignified with a ministerial meeting."

The department was also widely condemned by MPs for entertaining the idea of talks with the governor given China's treatment of the Uighurs, reports of which include allegations of forcibly sterilising women and putting children in "concentration camps".

After claiming that the Government would not "legitimise" China's actions in Xinjiang with such a meeting, Mr Docherty added officials "would be prepared to offer him a meeting", but only "to make absolutely clear the UK's abhorrence at the treatment of the Uighur people".
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