Britain summons China diplomat over protest assault

AFP , Tuesday 18 Oct 2022

The UK's foreign office on Tuesday summoned a top Chinese diplomat in London over footage of a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester being assaulted in the grounds of a Chinese consulate in Britain.

Chinese consulate
An incident involving a scuffle between a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester (C) and Chinese consulate staff, as a British police officer attempts to intervene, during a demonstration outside the consulate in Manchester on October 16, 2022 . AFP


China's Charge d'Affaires Yang Xiaoguang was summoned after Beijing earlier Tuesday accused demonstrators of "illegally entering" the consulate in the northern British city of Manchester.

British police have said a group of men came out of the consulate during a peaceful demonstration on Sunday afternoon, dragging one of the protesters inside the grounds and assaulting him.

"We have serious concerns about the footage that we have seen showing an incident at the Chinese Consulate-General," said foreign office minister Zac Goldsmith.

"Today we have made our view clear to the Chinese authorities: the right to peaceful protest in the UK must be respected," he added.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the protesters were to blame and that "violation of the peace and dignity of China's overseas embassies and consulates will not be tolerated".

"The troublemakers illegally entered the Chinese Consulate-General in Manchester, endangering the security of the premises," Wang said at a daily press briefing.

He urged the UK to "earnestly fulfil its duties and take effective measures to step up protection of the premises and personnel of the Chinese embassy and consulates".

The man involved in the incident, who is in his 30s, sustained injuries and spent the night in hospital, local police said.

'They Beat Me Up' 

Video footage posted on Twitter showed a grey-haired man kicking protesters' banners and scuffling with a group of demonstrators at the gates of the consulate.

A group of men were then shown punching a protester lying on the ground inside the mission's gates.

The newly appointed chair of the UK parliament's foreign affairs committee, Alicia Kearns, accused the Chinese consul-general Zheng Xiyuan, one of China's most senior UK diplomats, of being at the scene and "ripping down posters" during a "peaceful protest."

China has not responded to those claims.

The BBC reported that the injured activist was from Hong Kong, which was engulfed by massive pro-democracy protests in 2019 before Beijing imposed a harsh national security law to mute dissent.

"They dragged me inside. They beat me up," he told the broadcaster.

The protest took place as China opened its five-yearly Communist Party Congress, where President Xi Jinping is widely expected to be handed a historic third term in power.

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement that around 40 people had gathered outside the consulate for a planned peaceful protest.

Shortly before 4:00 pm (1500 GMT) "a small group of men came out of the building and a man was dragged into the consulate grounds and assaulted", police said.

"Due to our fears for the safety of the man, officers intervened and removed the victim from the consulate grounds."

'Denial Of Free Speech' 

Police have said they had not made any arrests, and asked for witnesses to get in touch and pass on any footage of the incident.

Several senior British politicians have condemned the use of violence against a protester.

Kearns, tweeted that interior and foreign ministers Suella Braverman and James Cleverly "need to urgently investigate".

The Chinese Communist Party "will not import their beating of protestors and denial of free speech to British streets", she added.

And influential former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith called for the government to "demand a full apology from the Chinese ambassador to the UK".

Nathan Law, a Hong Kong activist who has fled to the UK, tweeted: "If the consulate staff responsible are not held accountable, Hongkongers would live in fear of being kidnapped and persecuted."

He called for Cleverly and Braverman to "investigate and protect our community and people in the UK".

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