A Chinese diplomat filmed pulling the hair of a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester on the grounds of a consulate in Manchester, England, said it was his “duty” to uphold China’s dignity. defended his actions.
China’s consul general Zheng Xiyuan said on Wednesday when asked about video footage of a group of men beating demonstrators, he said “any diplomat” would have done the same.
The showdown took place on Sunday, when a group of pro-democracy demonstrators appeared at the consulate carrying banners with satirical images of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The demonstration coincided with the start of his week-long conference of major Chinese Communist Party elites in Beijing. The meeting is widely expected to see Xi Jinping secure his third term as a norm-breaking leader.
Video footage shows one of the pro-democracy demonstrators (who has since been identified as Bob Chan) being dragged through a gate into the consulate compound and beaten by a group of men. increase. It also shows Manchester police entering the consulate grounds to quell the riot.
In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Zheng defended his actions and those of his staff, claiming pro-democracy protesters incited violence with “rude flags.”
“I didn’t beat anyone. I didn’t allow my men to beat anyone. In fact, the so-called protesters beat my people,” Zheng said.
However, when a Sky News interviewer asked about the image of him pulling Chan’s hair, Chen apparently admitted to being involved, stating: I believe that is my mission. ”
“Do you pull your hair?” asked an interviewer, and Zheng replied, “Yes!”
He added that he maintained the dignity of China and its people and that “any diplomat” would have done the same in such a situation.
In a letter to Manchester police on Thursday, Chung claimed the consulate “respected the right to protest” and that the consulate’s premises had been “raided” by protesters.
China’s foreign ministry has defended Zheng, describing the protesters as “harassers” who illegally entered the Chinese consulate and “endangered the security of China’s diplomatic establishments.”
The incident now threatens to further sour relations between Britain and China. Relations between Britain and China have deteriorated in recent years with disagreements over the former British colony of Hong Kong, a major point of contention.
On Tuesday, the UK’s foreign secretary summoned Yang Xiaoguang, China’s second-highest senior diplomat in the UK, to ask for clarification and express deep concern over the incident.
Manchester police have opened an investigation into the assault, but said Wednesday it had so far made no arrests and said it was a “complicated and sensitive investigation” that would take time.
Bob Chan said at a news conference on Wednesday that he feared for his own safety and that of his family – echoing the fears expressed by other members of Britain’s Hong Kong diaspora.
He claimed he was trying to stop tearing up the protest banner when consular officials started attacking him.
“I was caught at the gate kicked and beaten.
“My hair was pulled and I was punched and kicked by several men.”
He showed pictures of his injuries and said he had bruises on his head, neck, back and around his eyes. he continued. “I was shocked because I never thought something like this would happen in the UK.”
The UK is home to a large number of Hong Kong citizens, many of whom left Hong Kong after Beijing introduced a comprehensive national security law in 2020. Under the law, protesters and activists were imprisoned, newsrooms were closed, civil society was dismantled, and formal political protests were held. wiped out effectively.
Hong Kong’s leaders have repeatedly insisted that Hong Kong’s freedoms were intact and that the law had restored order and stability after the 2019 massive pro-democracy protests.
However, a combination of tightening control over China’s cities and stringent Covid-19 restrictions has fueled urban exodus in recent years.
In August, Hong Kong recorded its biggest population decline since official records began in 1961.
As the scale of Hong Kong’s diaspora expands and Beijing becomes more active on the world stage, relations between Britain and China are also deteriorating, and so is British public opinion, experts say.
“The Manchester incident reflects the hardening of Britain’s attitudes toward China and the consequent cooling of British-Chinese relations since the 2019 Hong Kong protests,” said the University of London’s Department of International History. Senior Lecturer Chi-kwan Mark said, adding: It partly reflected the “increasing ideological clash between China and the West.”
And it has become a bipartisan issue, with members of both the UK’s Conservative and Labor parties supporting a “hard-line approach to China,” he said.
Speaking to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Conservative MP Alicia Kerns called the incident a “chilling escalation”, while Labor MP Afzal Khan expressed similar sentiments, saying: . On the streets of my city and my country.
“The British government … is under pressure to do something about China and stand up for Hong Kong.” China. ”