Tower Hamlets residents are being consulted on controversial proposals to move the Chinese Embassy from Marylebone to the former Royal Mint in Tower Hill.
The People’s Republic of China purchased the site in 2018 with the intention of building a new embassy, which will become China’s largest overseas diplomatic site. Local people are now being consulted on the plans.
The proposals have sparked outrage over China’s controversial domestic actions. China has been condemned internationally following reports of human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in China, and pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. Tower Hamlets is home to the largest Muslim population in the UK.
“The proposal is completely unacceptable,” Farah London, Tower Hamlets resident and Independent candidate for the Mayor of London 2021, told Eastlondonlines.“The last thing Muslim residents want nearby is the embassy of a government determined to suppress their religion. It’s essential we stand in solidarity with those unfairly incarcerated in China by opposing this relocation.”
Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan told ELL: “We are not opposing but confirming China’s treatment of the Uighur and the people of Hong Kong…. In principle we support the relocation of the Chinese Embassy in London to Tower Hamlets… [But] we wish to put our concerns on record.”
London is also concerned about the road closures that may arise from protests outside the new location. Many protests over human rights violations have been held outside the embassy’s current location, and London fears that this could cause severe disruption to traffic in Tower Hamlets. “This a main junction. Once the protests start happening, there’s going to be road closures, road blocks, it’s going to cause mayhem for many people that use these roads everyday,” she said.
The forms sent out to residents this week mark the beginning of the pre-formal planning application.
In the accompanying letter, Yuzi Xia, Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, welcomes thoughts and suggestions from local residents regarding design and “how we [the embassy] may support local cultural initiatives and events in the future”.
Xia added: “The current Royal Mint Court Estate offers nothing to the local economy and areas behind have been used as fly-tipping sites sporadically. We want to bring new footfall and spending to the local area, with workers at the embassy visiting local businesses.”
In a letter to the Chinese Ambassador, Mayor John Biggs expressed his hope that the council can debate the motion and come to a resolution soon. In the meantime, they welcome input from local residents.
“As elected representatives, we know that governments who do not listen to their people – and do not give them the opportunity to participate in political decision making – are not stable societies,” Khan told ELL.