Boris aides make a meal of London Mayor’s Chinese giveaway

London Mayor Boris Johnson’s cosily close links to China’s ZhongRong Group, to whom he wants to hand over a large chunk of publicly owned Crystal Palace Park, have been further exposed today, in the latest edition of the scurrilous satirical magazine, Private Eye.

Boris Johnson ChinaThe Eye has found records of repeated and generous restaurant visits paid for by the Chinese developers and enjoyed by Boris’s aides, his deputy mayor Richard Blakeway and Debbie Jackson, the Greater London Authority’s assistant director in charge of regeneration.

Last year, Boris personally endorsed the ZhongRong Group’s £500 million scheme to build a replica glass palace on the “top site” at the park, which has been largely derelict since Paxton’s original Crystal Palace burned down in 1936. The demands of ZRG have thrown the Crystal Palace Masterplan into some doubt, jeopardised Lottery and other funding for improvements in the park, and seen Olympic hero Sebastian Coe dragged into the controversy by having his consultancy company linked to plans to demolish the former national athletics stadium.

How did we arrive at this situation? It appears that the senior City Hall staffers have been busy selflessly sacrificing their waistlines in pursuit of better Anglo-Chinese understanding.

According to the Eye

China meal 1In September 2013 – a month before the ZRG announcement in south London – Blakeway and Jackson were dined (and wined?) by ZhongRong’s representative William Cheng at the Magdalen restaurant on the South Bank.

In October 2013 – Blakeway was taken by Cheng to Jumbo Kingdom, apparently the world’s largest floating restaurant, while on a visit to Beijing.
China meal 2
Also in October 2013 – following the ZRG announcement on the Crystal Palace terraces and while on a “trade mission” to the Chinese capital, the London Mayor himself, Blakeway and Boris’s economic advisor, Gerard Lyons, all enjoyed a nosh-up at ZhongRong’s headquarters office in Beijing with the head of the company, Ni Zhaoxing.

China meal 3In November 2013 – Blakeway and Jackson were back in the company of Cheng, this time for dinner at HIX Mayfair in the plush Brown’s Hotel, where a Porterhouse steak is a mere £75.

In February 2014 – the mad social whirl continued, this time over tapas at the smart Hispania restaurant in the City.

China meal 5And in April – Blakeway and Jackson dined at “Hutong, a fancy Chinese restaurant in London’s ‘Shard’.”

Let’s hope they left a generous tip.

The Eye reports, “Many people are puzzled why the GLA is so committed to giving ZhongRong, a firm unknown outside China, the chance to commercialise a London park without any competition. Is it down to the Mayor’s carefree attitude to big corporations, or his desire to see a big glossy building to commemorate his rule?

“Or is it thanks to the role of Tory insider Xuelin Bates as a lobbyist for the scheme? Either way, no doubt the agreeable dinners helped.”

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1 Response to Boris aides make a meal of London Mayor’s Chinese giveaway

  1. Pingback: Private Eye notes the many gifts accepted by Boris from Chinese business men | Friends of Belair Park

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