The United Kingdom has summoned a top Chinese diplomat over violence at a Hong Kong pro-democracy protest outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester, where a man appeared to be pulled into the consulate grounds and assaulted.
British police are investigating the incident, which took place during a demonstration against Chinese President Xi Jinping. Officers from Greater Manchester Police entered the consulate grounds to rescue a man who they said “was dragged” inside and assaulted by several men.
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“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.
China’s ambassador to the UK is not currently in the country, so Charge d’Affaires Yang Xiaoguang was summoned to the foreign ministry to explain the incident. He met a foreign office official who told him all diplomats and consular staff must respect UK laws and regulations.
Earlier, in Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, blamed the protesters for the incident.
“Disturbing elements illegally entered the Chinese Consulate General in Manchester and endangered the security of Chinese diplomatic premises,” he said at a daily press briefing.
“Diplomatic institutions of any country have the right to take the necessary measures to safeguard the peace and dignity of their premises.”
Video footage from the incident showed a grey-haired man in a hat and face mask kicking protesters’ banners — one of which showed a near-naked Xi in a crown — and scuffling with a group of demonstrators at the gates of the consulate.
Footage shows high-ranking officials of the Chinese Consulate, including the Consul General, causing grievous bodily harm to a protestor. We will not stand for brutality against those who seek refuge in our country.
Those involved should be expelled or charged within the week. pic.twitter.com/T97DDtC7Rm
— Alicia Kearns MP (@aliciakearns) October 18, 2022
A group of men were then shown punching a protester lying on the ground inside the mission’s gates as a police officer tried to stop the attack. Photos of the scuffles also showed a man being pulled towards the grounds by one group of men as police officers and other protesters try to pull him the other way.
Speaking in parliament, Alicia Kearns, the newly appointed chair of the UK parliament’s foreign affairs committee, accused Chinese Consul-General Zheng Xiyuan, one of China’s most senior diplomats in the UK, of being at the scene.
“Those involved should be expelled or charged within the week,” she wrote later on Twitter.
China has not responded to the allegations against Zheng.
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement that about 40 people had gathered outside the consulate on Sunday for a peaceful protest.
Shortly before 4:00pm local time (15:00 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.”
The protest took place as China opened its five-yearly Communist Party Congress, where Xi is widely expected to be handed an unprecedented third term in power.
The victim spent the night in hospital for treatment, and an investigation is ongoing, the British police added in a statement.
The man, whose first name is Bob, is in his 30s and emigrated to the UK from Hong Kong recently, according to a friend close to him.
Interviewed by British broadcaster Sky News, Bob said he feared for his life, and showed cuts to his face and bruises on his body as a result of the assault.
“They are like gangsters, you know, doing things like gangsters. It shouldn’t be like that. It’s not in China you know. This is the UK,” Bob told the news channel.