Francis Ingham, who is also director general of the PRCA, revealed the news during a panel session at Communications Week London chaired by PRWeek UK editor John Harrington.
Ingham said: "The Chinese have an association for PR practitioners. We won't allow it to join ICCO because it's state run, and to be a professional body in a country representing PR people, I think you have to be independent of government.
"They invited me to speak at their conference that's happening next week in Beijing. I said 'no' because I don't want to take a platform hosted by, in effect, the Chinese government, given the behaviour of the Chinese government, and given that none of us in this room would be able to practice our trade freely or without fear in China."
ICCO membership includes associations from 66 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Australasia.
Ingham also told the audience at the session on Wednesday evening, which was called Defining PR's Value and organised by Kite Hill PR, that the PRCA "will be announcing another merger in January in the UK".
In 2018 the trade body merged with the UK's Association of Professional Political Consultants. That same year the PRCA also assumed responsibility for the administrative management of LGcommunications, which represents local government communicators, alongside the Local Government Association.
More recently the PRCA signed a partnership agreement with French PR trade body the Syndicat du Conseil en relations publics.
Ingham told the panel there are "far too many bodies representing the PR industry here and around the world". There are "simply too many voices, and we underachieve because of that", he added.
"We all end up with a vested interest preserving our own identity. Over the last couple of years we've progressed our view consolidating the industry."
The panel session was held at WeWork offices on London's Grays Inn Road. PRWeek was the media partner.