UK: Protester calls assault at Chinese Consulate ‘barbaric’
LONDON (AP) — A Hong Kong protester on Wednesday described getting pulled into the Chinese Consulate in Manchester, England, and beaten up by several staff members during an incident that has escalated tensions between Britain and China.
Bob Chan said he and others were holding a peaceful antigovernment protest outside the consulate on Sunday when masked men came out, tore down the protesters’ banners and dragged him inside the buildings gates.
Speaking during a news conference in London, Chan rejected the Chinese government’s claim that he had illegally entered the consulate’s grounds and threatened its security.
“The attack only stopped when police pulled me outside. Let me say again: It is clear I was dragged into the consulate. I did not attempt to enter the consulate voluntarily,” he said.
British lawmakers, including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, have urged the U.K. government to expel any Chinese diplomats involved. Chan’s supporters alleged the Chinese consul general in Manchester and other Chinese diplomats took part in the reported assault.
Chan, who recently fled Hong Kong after Beijing intensified its crackdown on civil liberties in the city, said he suffered injuries to his eyes, his back and his head where his hair was pulled. He described the attack as “barbaric” and “unprovoked.”
“I believe the U.K. is a very safe place, a place with freedom of speech. That (Chinese) consulate staff can so brazenly pull someone inside and beat them up in broad daylight is unimaginable,” he said. “It’s shocking, and this should not happen.”
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a protester “illegally entered” the consulate and “jeopardized the security of the Chinese diplomatic premises,” and that Chinese diplomatic missions abroad have the right to take “necessary measures” to maintain security.
Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Wednesday that China has complained to the U.K. over the “deliberate harassment of China’s consulate general in Manchester.”
“Due to the illegal and deliberate harassment and entry into China’s consulate general, Chinese personnel were wounded and the security of the premises of the consulate came under threat,” Wang said in Beijing. “The security, peace and dignity of China’s diplomatic missions must not be violated.”
Greater Manchester Police said detectives were reviewing evidence to establish a full picture of what happened. Assistant Chief Constable Rob Potts said police were aware the incident caused “shock and concern” but stressed the investigation would take time.
No arrests have been made so far.
A British Foreign Office official summoned Chinese charge d’affaires Yang Xiaoguang on Tuesday to stress that the right to peaceful protest must be respected in the U.K..