Sadiq Khan refuses to block decision on new Chinese embassy

Sadiq Khan grilled on popularity of ULEZ scheme

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Sadiq Khan has said he will not overrule Tower Hamlets Council’s rejection of a plan to convert the former Royal Mint facility opposite the Tower of London into a new Chinese embassy. The plan for a Chinese “super embassy” was turned down by Tower Hamlets in December after a backlash from local residents.

The council referred the application to City Hall but said that its decision was that it was “minded-to-refuse”. Sadiq Khan had six weeks from the moment of referral to make a judgment on the proposal.

The Labour mayor will not be overturning the local council’s ruling on the application, however, this means that the plan will be referred up to central government.

A Greater London Authority report 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.”

The former Royal Mint site, which is next to the Tower of London and St Katherine’s Docks, was sold to the Chinese state in 2018.

Four of the buildings on the site received a “comprehensive internal strip-out” by Leeds-based company Rhodar, which used “80 specialist staff and equipment” to prepare the Dexter, Murray, Johnson-Smirke and Registry Buildings for redevelopment. Rhodar has been approached for comment.

The whole site was purchased for £255million by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is 700,000 sq ft.

However, the Evening Standard reported that residents feared the site may become a “secret police station” and referenced the “violent assault of protesters” at Manchester’s Chinese consulate last year.

The largest Muslim population in the UK resides in Tower Hamlets, and the council raised concerns about the suitability of a Chinese embassy in their jurisdiction, given China’s treatment of their Uighur Muslim population.

This comes as Tory grandee Sir Iain Duncan Smith accused the Chinese governor of Xinjiang of murder, as he joined Uighur protestors rallying against his reported visit to Britain next week.

Erkin Tuniyaz, the chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, may be coming to the UK next week to meet British officials.

However, Sir Iain, who is the MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, criticised the reports, saying: “We do not meet with people who murder others. Government should be above that.

“There is no negotiation until China stops what it is doing and restores the rights, privileges and freedoms for the people of Xinjiang who are Uighur.”

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All of this lands on a backdrop of national security concern after spy balloons were shot down in the US. 

The UK is currently reviewing its security measures, after Washington shot down four balloons flying in its airspace in February, declaring one of them to be a piece of Chinese spy technology.

Rishi Sunak said he would “do whatever it takes to keep the country safe”, telling reporters on Monday that there was “24/7 readiness to police our airspace”.

“People should be reassured that we have all the capabilities in place to keep the country safe,” Mr Sunak said.

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