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UK summons Chinese diplomat over embassy assault

October 18, 2022

British police are investigating an assault on a protester who was dragged inside the Chinese consulate in Manchester. Beijing has denied responsibility for the incident.

A man is pulled at the gate of the Chinese consulate after a demonstration against China's President Xi Jinping, in Manchester
Police had to get involved after unidentified men grabbed a protester outside the Chinese consulate in ManchesterImage: Matthew Leung/The Chaser News/REUTERS

The UK Foreign Office summoned a top Chinese diplomat on Tuesday to explain footage that allegedly shows a peaceful protester in Manchester being assaulted by Chinese consulate staff.

Police in the northern British city of Manchester said that a man in his 30s was taken to hospital on Sunday after a group of men dragged him onto consulate grounds during a peaceful anti-government protest.

China's Foreign Ministry has rejected that narrative and said protesters had broken into the consulate. On Tuesday, Beijing said its diplomatic missions have the right to "take necessary measures'' to maintain security. 

"The Foreign Secretary has issued a summons to the Chinese charge d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in London to express... deep concern" over the incident "and to demand an explanation for the actions of the consulate staff", Jesse Norman, a minister at the UK Foreign Office, told Parliament.

What happened at the Chinese consulate in Manchester?

The alleged victim of the assault later told journalists that he had been grabbed while trying to stop masked men who were tearing down anti-government placards outside the consulate.

The protesters were marking the opening of the weeklong Chinese Community Party congress which began on Sunday.

China Communist Party Congress

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

Video footage of a scuffle outside the consulate was shared on social media as well as by the BBC. The victim told the broadcaster, "They dragged me inside. They beat me up."

"We cannot allow the Chinese Communist Party to import their beating of protesters and their silencing of free speech ... to British soil," Parliament's foreign affairs committee chair Alicia Kearns said.

How did China react to the accusations?

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin put the blame on the protesters who he accused of a "violation of the peace," saying the "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," Weng told a press briefing.

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

The Communist Party congress — which takes place once every five years — is expected to greenlight a historic third term in power for President Xi Jinping.

Under Xi, Beijing has cracked down on the semi-autonomy of the former British colony of Hong Kong.

ab/wmr (AFP, AP)