British lawmaker – and China critic – denied entry to Djibouti

Incident in Djibouti, home of Chinese military base, shows ‘tentacles’ of Beijing’s influence, Tim Loughton says.
By Sonam Lhamo Singeri and Tashi Wangchuk for RFA Tibetan

British lawmaker – and China critic – denied entry to DjiboutiConservative MP Tim Loughton from the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, speaks during a press conference in central London on March 25, 2024.

 Daniel Leal/AFP

British lawmaker Tim Loughton, who was deported from the small East African nation of Djibouti in April, has warned that the move serves as more proof of China’s global influence in targeting those like him who are vocal critics of Beijing’s policies.

Djibouti, located on the Red Sea across next to Ethiopia, is home to China’s first overseas military base, and is heavily indebted to China.

Authorities in Djibouti questioned Loughton, who was scheduled to meet with the British ambassador there for a debrief on his recent visit to neighbor Somaliland, for over seven hours on April 8 before he was told he would not be allowed entry.

“This is a further warning that China poses a serious threat not just to those within China’s borders, but those beyond it as well,” he told Radio Free Asia.

Loughton, a Conservative member of parliament and former children’s minister, was one of seven British parliamentarians sanctioned by Beijing in 2021 for criticizing human rights abuses in China — which Beijing referred to as spreading “lies and disinformation.”

He said the experience gave him more impetus to speak out against the human rights abuses suffered by Tibetans, Uyghurs and others in China.



“Certainly, it’s a further indication of just how far the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party extend well beyond China around the world, and those of us who have been prepared to speak out are subject to the clutches of those tentacles, apparently even in countries as remote as Djibouti,” he told RFA Tibetan.

But the incident pales in significance to “the constant harassment, torture and violence” that many people inside China face, particularly Uyghurs, Tibetans and those from Hong Kong, where there has been a clampdown on freedom amid the imposition of a strict new national security law, Loughton said.

“We will continue to speak out in the British Parliament to highlight China’s abuses at home and overseas,” he said.

China critic

Loughton is a leading member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international cross-party group of lawmakers from over 18 democratic countries working towards a collective response to Chinese trade, security and human rights policies.

He is also co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet, which has highlighted China’s record on human rights abuses, and in 2019, introduced the Reciprocal Access Bill in the House of Commons designed to bar entry to the UK for Chinese officials found to block freedom of travel to Tibet by British citizens.

Loughton, who traveled to Somaliland as part of a British parliamentary delegation, said the visit itself was successful but that China was a frequent subject of discussions because of its close ties with Djibouti.

About 2,000 Chinese troops are permanently stationed at the military base, which appears large enough to dock a Chinese aircraft carrier, he said.

China has invested heavily in the country and is also the biggest creditor to the highly indebted Djibouti government, Loughton said.

“So, basically, what China wants, Djibouti tends to jump, and that became very clear with what happened to me,” he added.

Loughton said he had all the necessary requirements for entry into Djibouti, but that when he presented his passport, he was questioned extensively and asked about his occupation.

“When I revealed that I was a British member of parliament, then things turned decidedly frosty,” he said. “I was planted in the naughty corner in the arrivals lounge. … I was then rather rudely put into a room which had doors locked behind me, and I was left there for several hours, not knowing exactly what was going on.”

Authorities eventually told Loughton that he was not allowed into the country and that he would be put on the first plane out.

Even the British ambassador’s deputy, dispatched to the airport to help him, couldn’t persuade authorities to change their minds.

“There was no reason for me not to be allowed to go into Djibouti,” Loughlin said.

“Clearly, some of the comments that the delegation had made expressing our concerns about the influence of China in the area had been picked up, and, clearly, those sanctioned British parliamentarians are on a blacklist,” he said.