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China’s treatment of Muslims ‘not urgent enough’ to debate, Tower Hamlets Council decides

PUBLISHED: 15:44 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:12 01 October 2020

China condemnation at Tower Hamlets Council meeting. Picture: Mike Brooke

China condemnation at Tower Hamlets Council meeting. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The million-plus Muslims locked up in detention camps by the Chinese government which is applying for planning consent for its UK embassy at Tower Hill wasn’t considered “urgent enough” to be debated at last night’s Tower Hamlets Council meeting.

China's proposed new embassy in former Royal Mint at Tower Hill. Picture: Delancey developersChina's proposed new embassy in former Royal Mint at Tower Hill. Picture: Delancey developers

China’s plans to relocate its embassy to the historic former Royal Mint from the West End is facing opposition over repression of the Muslim Uighur people as well as the clampdown on democratic dissent in Hong Kong.

But the newly-elected Speaker of the Council turned down an Opposition group’s attempt for a human rights debate last night in the light of China’s planning application.

“This is an urgent motion on an issue of humanity,” Tory Group leader Peter Golds insisted. “We have the largest Chinese community anywhere in London living at Canary Wharf, many of them connected with the banking industry.

“But China’s Uighur Muslims being taken from their homes to be ‘re-educated’ is horrendous.”

Cllr Peter Golds... Cllr Peter Golds... "This is an urgent issue of humanity." Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets has the highest ratio of Muslims of any local authority area in Britain, at 38 per cent, which has led to the sensitivity in the East End with its historical links to fighting repressive regimes.

But the opposition motion, backed by Lib Dems’ Rabina Khan, got pushed into touch when Mohammed Hussain, Labour’s new council chair, or speaker, turned it down.

Cllr Hussain told authority members: “I don’t consider this matter urgent enough to be discussed. It should be tabled at the next meeting.”

The emergency motion condemning China won’t now be discussed by the Labour-run council, the local planning authority for the proposed Chinese embassy site, until space can be found on its agenda at November’s meeting.

Aerial by night... how China sees its new UK embassy opposite the Tower of London in the former Royal Mint. Picture: Delancey developersAerial by night... how China sees its new UK embassy opposite the Tower of London in the former Royal Mint. Picture: Delancey developers

The council may still have reservations about whether to allow the Tower Hill scheme in what would be China’s biggest overseas embassy. There is growing concern among town hall sources about breaches in human rights of the Uighur Muslims and whether Tower Hamlets “really wants to host the embassy of a nefarious regime”.

The embassy is in initial stages of pre-application talks with the town hall’s planning department, with the formal application said to be “a considerable time away”.


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