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14 Dec, 2022 20:02

China pulls diplomats after riot – UK

British authorities wanted to question six Chinese officials over the alleged beating of a pro-Western protester
China pulls diplomats after riot – UK

China has repatriated six of its envoys who UK police wanted to question over the alleged beating of a pro-Western demonstrator. The alleged incident took place during a riot at the Chinese consulate in Manchester in October, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said on Wednesday.

Cleverly said that law enforcement had requested that the officials had been asked to waive their diplomatic immunity and cooperate with an investigation. The British government gave China until Wednesday to meet the police’s demands, but Beijing instead brought the officials home.

"In response to our request, the Chinese government have now removed from the UK those officials, including the consul-general himself," Cleverly told reporters. 

"I am disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed or face justice," he said in a separate written statement. "Nonetheless, it is right that those responsible for the disgraceful scenes in Manchester are no longer – or will shortly cease to be – consular staff accredited to the UK."

Alicia Kearns, who chairs the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said on Wednesday that the six should be permanently barred from returning to the UK.

A crowd of masked Hong Kong independence demonstrators mobbed the consulate’s front gate in October, as China’s ruling Communist Party held its twice-per-decade congress in Beijing. Scuffles broke out between the group and consulate staff, with one protester claiming that he was dragged inside consulate grounds and beaten.

The man, a pro-Western Hong Kong resident named Bob Chan, claimed that Consul-General Zheng Xiyuan took part in the alleged assault.

The Chinese government claimed that two of its diplomatic staff had been attacked by the crowd, and demanded better protection from the British authorities. Zheng acknowledged that he had been involved in an “unpleasant” altercation with one of the protesters, without saying who started the scuffle.