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The Great Wall of Belfast

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The Great Wall of Belfast

Old 11th Aug 2020, 21:22
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Ecce Homo! Loquitur...
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The Great Wall of Belfast


China uses immunity to build ‘great wall of Belfast’

Diplomatic immunity has long been used to help spies flee hostile regimes, transport luggage without snooping eyes and even to dodge the London congestion charge, but now Beijing’s outpost in Northern Ireland has successfully deployed it in a dispute over plans to build a “great wall” in Belfast.

A High Court judge has ruled that Zhang Meifang, Beijing’s consul general in Belfast, cannot be prosecuted for breaching planning regulations with construction work at the consulate because she has diplomatic immunity.

At the centre of the row are moves by the Chinese to erect a 3m -tall boundary wall complete with “anti-climb devices” at the building in the Adelaide Park district of Belfast, which is treasured for its 19th-century architecture. A security pavilion at the entrance was also included, along with a new 16-space carport with “wash bay”.

The building, as well as all the structures and trees within and around the premises, are protected by a conservation order.

Two years ago council officials said that they were “concerned” that the character of the Adelaide Park area was in danger of being “eroded by alterations, individually and cumulatively, even if they are small in scale”
Regardless, Ms Meifang and the Chinese pressed ahead without planning permission, to the dismay of residents, including some who called the project the “Great Wall of Belfast”. So council officials asked the High Court for an injunction.

In a ruling handed down in June Madam Justice McBride, said that legally she had no alternative but to agree with lawyers for the Chinese government that Ms Meifang was entitled to diplomatic immunity. Therefore, her court could not order that building works be stopped.

She was critical of the consul general’s approach to the dispute and said that the foreign secretary had the power to withdraw permission for Beijing to use the building as a consulate. She said that the principle of diplomatic immunity should mean that “without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state”.

The judge told lawyers for Beijing that “your client should please bear in mind that there will likely be consequences if any unauthorised building/refurbishment takes place at the property”, and added: “I very strongly recommend that you work with Belfast city council planning authority to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.”

During the hearing a lawyer for the council described a possible “nuclear option” in which the foreign secretary can withdraw permission for the building to be used as a consular facility.

The judge said that if the foreign secretary pressed that button the “Chinese state’s right to occupy the premises will terminate. That would be a very serious consequence. Therefore, it is my view that it is all the more important at this stage for the respondent to engage in discussions with the council so that those serious consequences do not occur”.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is understood to be reluctant to intervene......
ORAC is offline  
Old 11th Aug 2020, 22:47
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We need to wake up to the Chinese threat...

mini is offline  
Old 12th Aug 2020, 02:24
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Belfast is full of walls such as these, which separate the Catholic and Protestant communities, so another one won't make much difference.
krismiler is offline  
Old 12th Aug 2020, 10:07
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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Originally Posted by mini View Post
We need to wake up to the Chinese threat...
Too late for that I'm afraid. They have been very busy while we were asleep.
As for this particular construction, any attempt to block it will be promptly responded to by sanctions on our own diplomatic missions in China.
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Old 12th Aug 2020, 11:18
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Any chinks in the wall??
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Old 14th Aug 2020, 01:53
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If it that kind of an area, just stipulate that the building materials must fit in with the surrounding locality. It's not as if it's the US Embassy in London....
jolihokistix is online now  

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