Britain’s foreign secretary has urgently summoned a top Chinese diplomat in response to the assault of a man who was dragged into the Chinese Consulate in Manchester and beaten by a group of unidentified men during an altercation over a ripped protest banner, media reports said Tuesday.
Senior British officials at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will question China’s charge d’affaires to London, Yang Xiaoguang, about the assault on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protester on Sunday after department officials expressed “deep concern” to the Chinese embassy, Politico reported, citing foreign office minister Jesse Norman.
“The foreign secretary has issued a summons to the Chinese charge d’affaires at the Chinese embassy in London to express His Majesty’s Government’s deep concern at the incident, and to demand an explanation for the actions of the consulate staff,” Norman said during an emergency debate at the House of Commons.
Norman told lawmakers that a probe into the incident by the Greater Manchester Police will determine whether the Chinese consul general Zheng Xiyuan and other Chinese officials had committed an offense under British law and should be expelled from the United Kingdom.
Video of the incident posted to social media showed a verbal altercation between 30-40 people peacefully protesting outside the consulate in Manchester on the first day of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress in Beijing and a man believed to be a member of consulate staff, who kicked and ripped a protest banner placed on the sidewalk outside the compound gates.
A protester who identified himself only as Bob told RFA he was then dragged into the consulate grounds where he was held to the ground and beaten by four people for more than a minute before a policeman pulled him away from his attackers. He was sent to the hospital after suffering “several physical injuries” in the assault.
Bob said the officer who eventually saved him admitted he wasn’t supposed to go inside the gates at all.
Tuesday’s debate was requested by Alicia Kearns, the U.K.’s newly elected chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, who directly accused the Chinese consul general of “ripping down posters” and said the attack had been carried out by “officials who have been recognized as member[s] of the Chinese Communist Party,” Politico said.
The Chinese Consulate on Monday called the weekend protest “deplorable” and accused demonstrators of hanging “an insulting portrait of the Chinese president at the main entrance,” according to the BBC.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry later claimed that “troublemakers illegally entered” the consulate grounds during the incident.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee declined to comment on the incident on Tuesday, saying he did not know the details of the case.
The beating was not the first incident in the U.K. involving Chinese state actors using violence in the service of China’s policies, and came amid widespread revulsion in Western nations toward China’s pugnacious, nationalistic “wolf warrior” diplomats.