Attack on protestor at Chinese consulate in UK ‘deeply concerning’

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An apparent assault of a protester inside the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester is concerning, UK prime minister’s spokesperson said after a video emerged of a man being dragged and beaten by several men.

In video footage circulated by domestic outlets, a man in a black cap and ponytail was hauled through a gate into the grounds of the Chinese consulate, where he was kicked and punched by five men as he lay on the ground.

One grey-haired man in a blue beret, glasses and scarf could also be seen grabbing the victim’s hair.

Police at the scene eventually stepped through the gate and pulled the man out.

The victim, who has since been identified as a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist called Bob, is said to have been participating in the demonstration against President Xi Jinping in front of the consulate.

“They dragged me inside, they beat me up,” Bob told the public broadcaster BBC.

“It’s ridiculous. [The attackers] shouldn’t have done that. We are supposed to have the freedom to say whatever we want here [in the UK].”

“These reports are obviously deeply concerning,” a Downing Street spokesperson told reporters on Monday. 

“I understand Greater Manchester Police responded immediately to the incident. I am conscious that their enquiries are ongoing, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment beyond that.”

Consulate staff ‘should be held accountable’

The incidents have sparked strong reactions in the UK, amid high tensions in recent years between London and Beijing, especially over Hong Kong, a former British colony ceded in 1997.

The chair of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, called on Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to “urgently investigate”.

“The CCP will not import their beating of protestors and denial of free speech to British streets,” Kearns wrote on Twitter. “The Chinese Ambassador should be summoned and if any official has beaten protesters, they must be expelled or prosecuted.”

“If the consulate staff responsible (for the incident) are not held accountable, Hongkongers would live in fear of being kidnapped and persecuted,” Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, who resides in the UK after fleeing Hong Kong, said on Twitter.

Sunday’s protest took place on the first day of the twice-a-decade congress of China’s ruling Communist Party in Beijing, during which Xi is widely expected to win a third leadership term.

Several protest banners had earlier been placed outside the consulate, one with the words, “Heaven will destroy the Chinese Communist Party”, and a caricature of Xi wearing a crown, according to pictures from the scene.

The events came on the day of the opening of the Communist Party congress in Beijing, which is expected to give President Xi Jinping a third term. 

“We are not aware of the situation you describe,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, told AFP. “The Chinese embassy and consulates in the UK have always respected the laws of the host country,” he added.