The father of Boris Johnson accidentally forwarded an email which outlined Chinese officials’ concerns about the prime minister to a BBC journalist.
The contents reveal the Chinese were concerned Johnson had not sent a personal message of support to the country’s leaders after the coronavirus outbreak.
The BBC reported Johnson wrote: “Re the outbreak of coronavirus, Mr Liu obviously was concerned that there had not yet – so he asserted – been direct contact between the PM and Chinese head of state or government in terms of a personal message or telephone call.”
He had sent the email after meeting the Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming to discuss environmental matters as a campaigner.
The PM’s father sent the email to environment minister Lord (Zac) Goldsmith and other officials, but sent it to a BBC journalist rather than someone of the same name.
“I merely reported,” he told the PA news agency. “I think I said in my short note the Chinese ambassador asserted…”
He added: “I was copying in someone who happened to have the same name as a lady at the BBC.
“These things happen.”
Johnson declined to say if he had discussed the Chinese concerns directly with the prime minister.
The PM’s father also said in the email he had raised the possibility of his son visiting China later in the year to attend an international conference on biodiversity, COP15.
According to the BBC Lord Goldsmith sent a reply to Johnson, stating: “Thank you so much Stanley. That is extremely useful”.
The Chinese ambassador shared pictures of him and Johnson on Twitter after their meeting.
Liu tweeted: “Thank you Mr. Stanley Johnson for expressing your sympathy and support to the Chinese people who are fighting the novel coronavirus.
“With the support of British friends, we have the confidence and capability to beat the virus!”