By Reuters and published by Euronews.com and CNA
London – Britain told China’s Charges d’Affaires in London that the right to peaceful protest must be respected, after he was summoned to explain an incident in which a protester was seen being pulled into the grounds of the Chinese consulate and beaten.
“Today we have made our view clear to the Chinese authorities: the right to peaceful protest in the UK must be respected,” said Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
British police are investigating the incident, which occurred during a demonstration against Chinese President Xi Jinping. Officers entered the consulate grounds to rescue a man who they said “was dragged” inside and assaulted by several men.
Commenting on the incident during a news conference in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “Disturbing elements illegally entered the Chinese Consulate General in Manchester and endangered the security of Chinese diplomatic premises.”
“Diplomatic institutions of any country have the right to take the necessary measures to safeguard the peace and dignity of their premises,” he added.
Britain’s foreign office said it was extremely concerned about what it called “apparent scenes of violence”.
The protest, involving 30 to 40 people including Hongkongers now resident in Britain, took place at the start of a twice-a-decade congress of China’s ruling Communist Party in Beijing at which Xi is widely expected to win a third leadership term.
Footage posted by the BBC showed a man in a black cap and ponytail being hauled through a gate into the consular grounds, where he was kicked and punched by five men as he lay on the ground.
British lawmaker Alicia Kearns said China’s Manchester consul general, Zheng Xiyuan, “had full sight, and was quite possibly involved, in the assaults”. The Chinese spokesman, Wang, declined to confirm or deny whether Zheng Xiyuan was involved in the incident.
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 Britain 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 after 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.
The incident was triggered when several men came out of the consulate to take down protest banners, including one with the slogan: “Heaven will destroy the Chinese Communist Party”, and a caricature of Xi wearing a crown.
Top: A man is pulled at the gate of the Chinese consulate after a demonstration against China’s President Xi Jinping, in Manchester, Britain, on Oct. 16, 2022. Photo: Matthew Leung/The Chaser News/Handout via Reuters and published by Thepeninsulaqatar.com
Insert: Britain’s Minister of State Zac Goldsmith arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain on Feb. 11, 2020. File photo: Reuters /Hannah McKay and published by Euronews.com
Front Page: A picture taken on Oct. 17, 2022 shows the Chinese consulate in Manchester a day after an incident involving a scuffle between Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters and Chinese consulate members of staff, happened outside the building. Photo: AFP/Lindsey Parnaby and published by CNA