The Chinese government has removed a Chinese consul general and five of his staff after a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester was attacked at the Chinese consulate in Manchester, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Thursday.
British police want to question six officers over the beating of protester Bob Chan, James Cleverly said. During a peaceful protest in October, masked men emerged from the consulate building, dragged him to the consulate grounds and beat him, Chen said.
Officers at the scene had to step in and remove Chen, who sustained injuries to his face and back, police said.
Subtly, the Foreign Office asked Beijing to waive the six officials’ diplomatic immunity so police investigating the matter could interrogate them.
“In response, the Chinese embassy, on instructions from Beijing, notified the British government that the consul-general in Manchester had come to an end and he had returned to China,” Cleverly said. He added that other staff “are either leaving the UK or will be leaving very soon.”
Chen welcomed Thursday’s developments in a statement.
“It’s been two months since I was attacked by Chinese consulate staff in Manchester,” he said. “What happened on October 16, 2022 is unacceptable and illegal, and the withdrawal of these Chinese diplomats gives me a sense of the end.”
The incident was captured on video, heightening tensions between the UK and China. China’s foreign ministry insists that Chen entered the consulate illegally and that Chinese diplomats have the right to maintain security inside the consulate.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, has offered residency to tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents since the city’s sweeping crackdown on civil and political rights following a wave of anti-Beijing protests in 2019. China has declared its commitment to London to maintain these rights until 2047 – a document registered with the United Nations – null and void.
In his first major foreign policy speech last month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared the “golden age” of Britain’s relationship with China was over, describing China’s growing authoritarianism as “a threat to our values”. systemic challenges to interests and interests”. After the incident, some British politicians called for the expulsion of Chinese diplomats.
At the request of the British side, the Chinese embassy in the UK issued a statement denying any wrongdoing, saying that Cleverly had “distorted the facts and made irresponsible remarks.”
The statement reiterated that the protesters “illegally broke into the consulate and beat consulate officials, seriously damaging the safety and dignity of consulate officials.”
It said China had “made solemn representations to the UK”, suggesting possible retaliation.
“The British side must be clear that reciprocity is a basic principle of diplomacy. Any actions that harm China’s interests will be met with forceful counterattacks,” it said.
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of the protester’s name. It’s Chen, not Chen.