UK Government Urged to Expel Chinese Diplomat After Hong Kong Protester Beaten at Manchester Consulate

Lily Zhou
By Lily Zhou
October 18, 2022UK

Lawmakers on Oct. 18 urged the UK government to expel Chinese diplomats who were involved in beating a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester at the Chinese Consulate in Manchester on Oct.16.

Raising an urgent question on the incident in Parliament, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, urged the government to either prosecute or expel the attackers within the week.

More than 20 cross-party MPs spoke to demand action from the government.

A spokesperson for campaign group Hong Kong Indigenous Defence Force, which organised the protest where the incident occurred, told The Epoch Times that Consul General Zheng Xiyuan should be removed from the UK for allowing the incident to happen.

Jesse Norman, minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), told Parliament the office has summoned the chargé d’affaires at the Chinese Embassy, demanding an explanation, and will decide what to do after establishing the facts.

Beaten Over a Caricature

Bob Man, a BNO migrant from Hong Kong who attended a protest outside the Chinese Consulate in Manchester on Sunday, was dragged onto consulate grounds by a group of men and beaten before a police officer rescued him.

He was trying to stop the men from taking a large poster depicting a caricature of Chinese leader Xi Jinping as an emperor wearing no clothes.

NTD Photo
A caricature of Chinese leader Xi Jinping as an emperor wearing no clothes. (Hong Kong Indigenous Defence Force)

Speaking to The Epoch Times on Monday, Paul, a spokesperson for Hong Kong Indigenous Defence Force, said a bunch of Bob’s hair was pulled out and he had been punched on multiple parts of his body including his head.

Bob was discharged from the hospital and was awaiting a full medical report, Paul said.

He said the peaceful protest was only meant to last one hour and no one expected the violence.

“We were quite shocked,” Paul said, adding some Hongkongers felt scared that such behaviour would be allowed to happen in the UK, while others were indignant over the attack and were already asking if there will be more protests.

Paul said the group wants to “get an answer” from the Chinese Consulate on why the men attacked the protesters and the names of the attackers sent to British authorities, “because the protester who got assaulted by those people should get justice.”

Similar to many Hong Kong activists, Paul is a pseudonym. They use pseudonyms for their own safety as well as the safety of their family and friends in Hong Kong.

Identities Unconfirmed

The identities of the men who beat Bob have not been confirmed but it was widely speculated on social media that Consul General Zheng Xiyuan was at the scene based on the appearance of a masked man who was filmed kicking and ripping posters. The man also appeared to be pulling Bob’s hair before watching him being beaten.

NTD Photo
Hongkongers holding a rally outside the Chinese Consulate in Manchester, UK, were dragged into the consulate and beaten by the staff, on Oct. 16, 2022. (Screenshot of Hong Kong Indigenous Defense Force)

There are other social media posts claiming to have identified some of the men as consular staff, but none of the identities have been confirmed.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed on Monday that the men had come out of the consulate building.

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Potts said a “full and comprehensive investigation” was underway, and that “all viable avenues will be explored to bring to justice anyone we believe is culpable for the scenes we saw outside the Chinese Consulate on Sunday.”

But it’s unclear whether the perpetrators can be prosecuted as consular staff enjoy some diplomatic immunity.

David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said on Sunday that Zheng should be told to “pack his bags and leave” if he is confirmed to have been the person filmed pulling Bob’s hair.

Asked whether Zheng should be expelled if he was not present, Alton told The Epoch Times in an email that he believes “if the Consul General was involving [sic] the affray he should be sent packing.”

Noting that Zheng has not been confirmed to be at the scene, Paul said he believes the consul general should be expelled irrespective of whether he was involved in the assault because he “allowed his staff to do this to the general public.”

Benedict Rogers
Campaigner Benedict Rogers speaks at a rally for democracy in Hong Kong at Trafalgar Square in London, on June 12, 2021. (Laurel Chor/Getty Images)

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, told The Epoch Times on Tuesday that Zheng should be expelled if he was at the consulate at the time.

“He should definitely be expelled if he was there [at the scene],” Rogers said. “[On] whether he should be expelled if he wasn’t there, I think it depends on the circumstances and where he was.”

Rogers believes he should be expelled if he was on the premises and “therefore was aware of everything going on,” while “hypothetically if he wasn’t in the consulate at all, then that may be a different matter.”

The Chinese Consulate didn’t reply on Monday when The Epoch Times questioned whether Zheng was at the scene.

A spokesperson told the BBC on Sunday that the protesters had “hung an insulting portrait of the Chinese president at the main entrance,” adding: “This would be intolerable and unacceptable for any diplomatic and consular missions of any country. Therefore, we condemn this deplorable act with strong indignation and firm opposition.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday told a press conference in Beijing that “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.

Expelling Consular Personnel ‘a Political Decision’

The FCDO was put under increasing pressure to expel the consular personnel involved as MPs fired questions at Norman on Tuesday.

The minister said the Chinese chargé d’affaires was scheduled to meet FCDO officials on Tuesday afternoon.

“Let me be clear that peaceful protest, as [the House of Commons] has always recognized, is a fundamental part of British society and of our way of life. All those on our soil have the right to express their views peacefully without fear of violence,” Norman said, adding that FCDO had “expressed that clearly to the Chinese Embassy” on Monday and will “continue to work with the Home Office and Greater Manchester Police colleagues to decide on appropriate next steps.”

NTD Photo
Bruises are seen on the body of Bob, a pro-democracy Hong Kong protester who was dragged onto the ground of Chinese Consulate and beaten in Manchester, England, on Oct. 16, 2022. (Courtesy of Hong Kong Indigenous Defence Force)

MPs, who are protected from legal action for their speech during parliamentary proceedings, were quicker to assert Zheng was at the scene.

“What we saw was the Chinese consul general then ripping down posters and peaceful protests,” Kearns told MPs.

“We cannot allow the [Chinese Communist Party] to import their beating of protesters, their silencing of free speech, and their failure to allow time and time again protests on British soil. This is a chilling escalation.”

She asked the minister to confirm that “any Chinese official involved in the beatings will be prosecuted, and if they cannot be, will be expelled from his country within the week.”

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock also said Zheng should be expelled immediately.

“It is plain as the nose on our face that the consul general was involved in those violent scenes. He should be expelled immediately. And can the minister just confirm there’s no connection to a police investigation? This is a political decision to expel?” he asked Norman.

Apart from “the intimidation of Hongkongers and others,” Kinnock added, “there are so many other areas whether it’s covert influence, an attempt to subvert our democracy and our education system. It’s clear that we need an in-depth comprehensive strategic audit of every aspect of the relationship between the UK and China” across government departments, he said.

Norman said he was not suggesting the FCDO’s decision on whether to expel Chinese diplomat in Manchester will be connected to the police investigation, adding, “We do need to establish the facts in a way that is official.”

“That process is continuing and when we have the answer there, we will take action,” he said.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.