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Tory MP says he was deported from Djibouti due to criticisms of China

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A former government minister who has had sanctions imposed on him by China has said he was detained and deported by Djibouti as a “direct consequence” of the east African country’s close ties with Beijing.

Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham since 1997, said he was held for more than seven hours at the airport earlier this month, barred entry to Djibouti, and told he was being removed on the next available flight.

China imposed sanctions on seven parliamentarians including Loughton in 2021 over what it called the spreading of “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Loughton, a veteran backbencher who served as deputy chairman on the home affairs select committee, arrived in Djibouti on 8 April for a 24-hour visit including meeting the British ambassador.

The MP told the Daily Telegraph he believes his “intimidating” detention and expulsion by the Djibouti authorities was a “direct consequence” of his criticism of the Chinese regime.

He believes it was “just the latest example of intimidation that the seven sanctioned parliamentarians have suffered over the last three years”.

Djibouti has received billions of dollars of investment from the Chinese including a new stadium, hospital, a $1bn (£790m) space port and a free trade zone housing manufacturing and warehouse facilities.

Loughton said he had raised the issue with Andrew Mitchell, the deputy foreign secretary, and written to the Djibouti ambassador via the Foreign Office to protest about the “outrageous” behaviour.

He told the Telegraph: “As soon as I revealed I was a British MP, and my passport was checked, things turned decidedly frosty.”

The Tory MP said he was held for an hour without any explanation in the arrivals hall and was subsequently taken to a holding room where he was detained alone for three hours.

Loughton, who is standing down as an MP at the next general election, added: “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.”

A Chinese embassy spokesperson said the allegations were “purely baseless” and called them “fabricated and slanderous rhetoric that attempts to smear China and poison China-UK relations”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We provided consular support to a British man in Djibouti.”

Last year, Loughton and Finn Lau, a political activist from Hong Kong, wrote for the Guardian to declare they will not be “silenced” over their criticism of the Chinese Communist party (CCP).

They wrote: “We will continue to advocate for pragmatic policies that elevate democracy and human rights around the world while increasingly reducing Britain’s economic dependence on volatile autocratic regimes.

“We will continue to engage with the public, journalists, activists, and other governments to inform them of the painful lessons that the CCP wishes to inflict on these innocent Hongkongers.”

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