Stanley Johnson has sparked a furious row with MPs after the Prime Minister’s father called for the Chinese ambassador to no longer be banned from Parliament.
The 81-year-old, who is known to be close to Zheng Zeguang, said he hoped MPs would relent on their current stance and allow Beijing’s diplomat to soon visit the Palace of Westminster.
But Mr Johnson was immediately condemned for providing a ‘massive propaganda boost’ for China at a time of huge scrutiny over the country’s human rights record.
A group of MPs also called for a ‘period of silence’ from the PM’s father, as they accused him of ‘advancing the interests of a brutal Chinese regime’.
In September last year, China’s ambassador to the UK was told he could not come to Parliament while Beijing continues to sanction a number of MPs and peers.
Mr Zheng had been due to attend a parliamentary reception, but both House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord Speaker barred the Chinese ambassador.
It came after protests from those MPs and peers who had been subjected to sanctions by China for criticising Beijing, including allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghurs.
Stanley Johnson welcomed China’s ambassador Zheng Zeguang to his London home in April this year
The PM’s father posted a photo of the lunch on his Instagram account
The pair also met at the Chinese ambassador’s residence last week to discuss Mr Johnson’s upcoming filming trip
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Mr Johnson expressed his hope that Parliament would reconsider its ban on Mr Zheng when they return from their summer recess.
‘I would imagine parliament is breaking up for the summer pretty soon,’ he said.
‘But I would very much hope that by the time parliament returns, these bans will no longer be in place.’
In April, the PM’s father hosted Mr Zheng and the diplomat’s wife, Hua Mei, for lunch at his London home.
And Mr Johnson last week attended the couple’s residence to discuss his plan to film a documentary while tracing Marco Polo’s route over China’s Silk Road.
The trip will see Mr Johnson team up with his youngest son, Max, 36, who is a half-brother of the PM.
Concerns have been raised about the pair’s journey as it is due to see them visit Xinjiang, home to the Uyghur people.
Last year, the Commons declared that genocide is taking place against the Uyghurs with more than a million people estimated to have been detained at camps in Xinjiang.
The PM’s father is planning to film a documentary while tracing Marco Polo’s route over China’s Silk Road
Conservative MPs Nus Ghani and Sir Iain Duncan Smith are both among those parliamentarians sanctioned by Beijing
Mr Johnson said the Chinese government had been ‘tremendously helpful’ with his plans and described Mr Zheng as a ‘very agreeable, capable and intelligent man’.
Asked whether he would raise human rights concerns with Chinese officials, Mr Johnson told the Hong Kong-based newspaper: ‘We will be travelling with eyes open and our ears open.
‘And you can be absolutely sure that … the TV team who are with us are absolutely professional, they will film what we see. I think that’s all we can say.’
According to the newspaper, a statement signed by those parliamentarians sanctioned by Beijing – including Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith, as well as fellow Conservative MPs Nusrat Ghani and Tim Loughton – accused Mr Johnson of ‘advancing the interests of a brutal Chinese regime that is committing genocide on the Uyghurs’.
It added: ‘It is sad that he so blatantly uses his family ties for such selfish and self-serving reasons.
‘As any decent person might remark, a period of silence from him would be most welcome.’
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael posted on Twitter: ‘There is no doubt that Johnson’s support for the Chinese Government is a massive propaganda boost for them and an embarrassment for our Government.
‘To go to Xinjiang when many have concluded that the Uyghur population is the subject of a genocide is a colossal error of judgement.’
The Foundation for Uyghur Freedom asked: ‘Is Stanley Johnson a national security risk?’