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(Source: The Standard)

Tim Loughton, British MP, Detained and Deported From Djibouti Over Criticism of China

Tim Loughton, a sitting MP of Britain’s Conservative Party and former UK government minister, told international media that he was detained for more than seven hours and barred from entry to Djibouti. Loughton, who has been the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham since 1997, told The Daily Telegraph that the incident occurred on April 8 when he arrived in Djibouti from Somaliland for a 24-hour visit to meet the British Ambassador.

Mr. Loughon believes his detention and expulsion by the Djibouti authorities is a result of his criticism of Beijing. Mr Loughton was sanctioned by the Chinese more than three years ago, alongside seven parliamentarians, after criticizing human rights abuses by China against the Uighurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers. He claimed his detention was “just the latest example of intimidation that the seven sanctioned parliamentarians have suffered over the last three years”.

He also said his treatment in Djibouti could set a precedent for actions of other states backed by the Chinese. Describing his experience, he said: “As soon as I revealed I was a British MP, and my passport was checked, things turned decidedly frosty.” Mr Loughton claims he was held for an hour without explanation in an airport arrivals hall, before he was taken into a room by immigration officials and told he could not enter Djibouti.

He was later escorted across the airport tarmac and put on a flight to Dubai despite appeals by the UK’s deputy ambassador in the country

He said: “They gave me no reason. I kept saying: ‘Why?’ and they could not tell me. “In short, it was a highly intimidating and very lonely experience in a very strange country.”

Mr Loughton’s deportation comes weeks after it was revealed he was among three MPs and a peer whose parliamentary emails were hacked by the Chinese.

Mr Loughton is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet, which has highlighted China’s record on human rights abuses. In 2019, he introduced the Reciprocal Access Bill in the House of Commons which requires the UK Government to take measures against Chinese officials denying access to Tibet. He is also a leading member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international cross-party group working towards reform on how democratic countries approach China.

China’s growing ties with Djibouti has been well documented. In 2017, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) opened its first-ever overseas military base in Djibouti. The two countries agreed to establish a strategic partnership in 2017. Djibouti is also an active participant in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and most of its infrastructure projects are financed by Chinese companies.  

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