Streets around proposed Chinese embassy building could be renamed after persecuted Muslims

Royal Mint building

The renaming of streets around the proposed relocated Chinese embassy come from a Lib Dem councillor - Credit: Archant

Streets around China’s new proposed embassy could be renamed after the Muslim population being persecuted in the country, as the row over the plans intensifies.

China bought the old Royal Mint building opposite the Tower of London for £250 million in 2018 and plans to turn it into its largest European embassy as well as cultural centre, office space and staff accommodation.

But councillors in Tower Hamlets have expressed their concern about China’s human rights record, particularly new laws in Hong Kong and the plight of Uyghur Muslims.

The population has reportedly been detained in camps, forced into labour and banned from practicing their religion in the country.

China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming has denied the reports as “all lies fabricated by a few irresponsible politicians and media from the West”.

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A motion, heard at Tower Hamlets full council meeting last night, asked the local authority to rename roads around the site as “Tiananmen Square”, in memory of the 1989 student protests in China, “Uyghur Court”, “Hong Kong Road” and “Xiaobo Road”, after Chinese human rights activist Xiaobo Liu who was incarcerated as a political prisoner in the country.

Lib Dem councillor Rabina Khan, who proposed the motion, has also asked the council to raise the Tibetan Flag outside the Town Hall on March 10 in memory of Tibetan Uprising Day, which commemorates the 1959 rebellion against the presence of China in Tibet.

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Mrs Khan said: “We welcome the relocation of the Chinese Embassy and its staff moving to Tower Hamlets.

“But as new neighbours and friends we must continue to make clear where our own standards and principles apply.”

The motion adds that the council should urge the Chinese and Hong Kong Governments to reconsider the imposition of National Security Law legislation and should campaign against the human rights’ abuses against the Uyghur Muslims.

Mrs Khan added: “The borough has a long and proud history of being the first home in the UK for many people fleeing persecution in their original countries. And that those earlier arrivals are now British citizens.”

Last year, China’s ambassador to the UK Mr Xiaoming wrote to the mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs to say he believes councillors are “attempting to disrupt” the new embassy.

He expressed his “grave concern” over a motions due to be discussed at full council meetings.

The Royal Mint was built in 1809 on the site of the Cistercian abbey of St Mary Graces, the cemetery of which contained mass graves for victims of the Black Death.

Councillors have also warned that the building work could unearth the bodies of thousands of plague victims.

Conservative Peter Golds has written to Historic England to ensure a proper survey of the site was done before any work began.

He said: “This is a site of major historical importance. My concern is that across this site will be foundations and artefacts… and the burial sites of victims of the Black Death.”

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