Tim Loughton: Tory MP says arresting peaceful protesters during Chinese state visit was a 'disgraceful infringement of free speech'

Former minister says the Home Affairs Select Committee may review how such demonstrations are policed

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Friday 30 October 2015 20:38
Conservative MP Tim Loughton
Conservative MP Tim Loughton

The arrest of three peaceful protesters during last week’s Chinese state visit was a “disgraceful infringement of free speech” a senior Conservative MP has said.

Former minister Tim Loughton told The Independent that the Government’s response to the incidents had been insufficient and said the influential Home Affairs Select Committee may review how such demonstrations are policed.

He also accused police of deploying “double standards” by allowing “pro-Chinese flunkies” to stand at the front of the crowds greeting President Xi Jinping in London last week, while Tibetan protesters were “corralled at the back”.

All charges against Dr Shao Jiang, a pro-democracy activist who survived the Tiananmen Square massacre, and two Tibetan students, all of whom were arrested for breaching the peace on 21 October, have been dropped.

Mr Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, who served as children’s minister in the Coalition government, said: “This was a disgraceful infringement of free speech, the lynchpin of British democracy and more in keeping with the intolerance shown in China where dissent is brutally quashed.

“It is a further example of the double standards applied to demonstrators during the recent Chinese state visit where peaceful Tibetan protesters were corralled at the back of the Mall whilst state funded pro-Chinese flunkies were issued with ‘Love China’ T-shirts and given pride of place at the front.

“The fact that the arrests were accompanied by raids of the homes of those involved in the middle of the night and computers seized is more reminiscent of the tactics used in China and was completely unwarranted as shown by the fact that all charges have now been dropped as being baseless.

“It really is not enough for the Policing Minister to say that this is purely an operational matter for the police.”

A Home Office Spokesman said: “The operational policing of protests and use of police powers are entirely matters for Chief Officers. It is therefore inappropriate for the Home Office to comment on the specifics of individual cases.”

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