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China blames ‘disturbing elements’ for illegal entry in UK consulate incident

China has accused “disturbing elements” of illegally entering its consulate in Manchester, following an incident in which a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester was seen being pulled into the mission’s grounds and beaten up.

British police are investigating the incident, which occurred during a demonstration against Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Officers entered the consulate grounds to rescue a man who they said “was dragged” inside and assaulted by several men.

The protest, involving 30 to 40 people including Hongkongers now resident in Britain, took place at the start of a twice-a-decade congress of China’s ruling Communist Party in Beijing at which Mr Xi is widely expected to win a third leadership term.

Footage posted by the BBC showed a man in a black cap and ponytail being hauled through a gate into the consular grounds, where he was kicked and punched by five men as he lay on the ground.

The BBC video showed several men from the consulate, some wearing helmets and protective vests, take down several banners, and during a confrontation with the protesters they grabbed the man and dragged him into the grounds.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin commented on the incident during a regular news conference in Beijing.

“Disturbing elements illegally entered the Chinese Consulate General in Manchester and endangered the security of Chinese diplomatic premises,” he said in response to a question.

“Diplomatic institutions of any country have the right to take the necessary measures to safeguard the peace and dignity of their premises.”

Alicia Kearns, a lawmaker in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party and the new head of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter that China’s Manchester consul general, Zheng Xiyuan, “had full sight, and was quite possibly involved, in the assaults.”

Mr Wang declined to confirm or deny whether China’s consul general in Manchester was involved in the incident.

Police in Manchester said “due to our fears for the safety of the man, officers intervened and removed the victim from the consulate grounds”.

The victim spent the night in hospital for treatment and an investigation is ongoing, police added in a statement.

The man, whose first name is Bob, is in his 30s and emigrated to the UK from Hong Kong recently, according to a friend close to him.

Interviewed by British broadcaster Sky News, Bob said he feared for his life, and showed cuts to his face and bruises on his body after the assault.

“They are like gangsters, you know, doing things like gangsters. It shouldn’t be like that. It’s not in China you know. This is the UK,” Bob told the news channel.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Liz Truss said the reports were “deeply concerning”.

The incident was triggered when several men came out of the consulate to take down several protest banners, including one with the slogan: “Heaven will destroy the Chinese Communist Party”, and a caricature of Mr Xi wearing a crown.

Security has been tight in Beijing as the party congress gets underway, and police last week removed rare banners of political protest – including one calling for Mr Xi’s ouster – from an overpass.

-Reuters
Topics: China, UK
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