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.
The 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…
In 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.
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.
In February 2014 – the mad social whirl continued, this time over tapas at the smart Hispania restaurant in the City.
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.”
- City Hall documents confirms Palace plans are linked
- C4 News: London Assembly to investigate Boris’s £1bn property deal
- Greens take a stand against Chinese takeaway of public park
- Assembly Member calls Chinese Palace plans a “fiasco”
Coming to Croydon
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Opera Soiree at Whitgift School, Dec 14
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Spread Eagle’s Christmas Improv show, Dec 17
- David Lean Cinema, Northern Soul, Dec 18
- David Lean Cinema, Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Dec 29
- David Lean Cinema, The Beat Beneath My Feet, Dec 30
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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