China defies court order over building of wall at Belfast consulate | UK news

A discussion about building a wall at the Chinese consulate in Belfast increased after China said it would ignore a legal order to temporarily stop work.

A letter from lawyers at the Chinese embassy in London to residents who oppose the security wall said diplomatic officials do not recognize the jurisdiction of the courts in northern Ireland.

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Martin McBurney, who lives in front of the Chinese consulate in the healthy Malone area, won an injunction that aims to halt construction two weeks ago, but work has continued this week.

The consulate opened five years ago and work to strengthen the outer wall began in February. Builders were sent from China for the project and they worked on site during the coronavirus crisis.

Chinese diplomats did not apply for permission for the project through normal planning procedures. Residents are opposed to this because they say it is in a conservation area that includes many trees that were felled during the construction program.

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In response to a warning from McBurney's lawyer that they were going to the upper court in Belfast to enforce the stop notice, a Chinese embassy lawyer wrote: “Our client does not accept the jurisdiction of the courts and will not participate in the proceedings. . However, to assist the court, we have established our detailed legal points and the request is based on false facts. The allegation in the higher court is highly disrespectful to our client. "

When residents objected to Belfast City Hall, the council claimed that the staff at the Chinese consulate had diplomatic immunity that allowed them to ignore planning laws.

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However, outgoing Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin, QC, confirmed to residents of Malone Park and Adelaide Park that planning laws were not covered by diplomatic immunity.

China's lawyers in London repeated their claim that "our client maintains diplomatic immunity and the consulate is inviolable".

The letter added: "Our client does not accept that the execution notices are valid because our client is entitled to diplomatic immunity".

McBurney said the response from embassy representatives was "bizarre and arrogant".

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He and other residents who oppose the construction project claimed that the city council tried to ignore normal planning rules due to a desire to attract Chinese economic investment in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

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