IDS blasts Chinese diplomats’ attack on protester as ‘assault on UK’

Manchester: Hong Kong protester attacked outside Chinese consulate

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The apparent attacking of demonstrators outside Beijing’s consulate in Manchester was “an assault on people in the United Kingdom, against all the rights that we hold dear and against our freedoms”, Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said. The long-time adversary of China said the Government’s response was “wholly inadequate” as he called for those accused to be expelled from the country.

Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner Bob Chan feared he “might be beaten to death” after being dragged into the grounds of the consulate on Sunday, before being rescued by police.

The UK Government has warned that “diplomatic consequences will follow” if China does not waive immunity for any officials charged with assault in relation to the incident, which is now under police investigation.

Jesse Norman, a junior minister in the Foreign Office, said British officials had sent a “stern message” to counterparts in Beijing expressing their unhappiness with the events that transpired at the weekend.

But Sir Iain – who was last year among a handful of individuals sanctioned by China – was among MPs urging the Government to mount a stronger response in the House of Commons yesterday.

Using an urgent question, he asked about the role of Zheng Xiyuan, the Chinese consul general, who he said “appears now took part in the assault of Bob Chan”. Four other diplomats were named in Parliament.

Sir Iain, who spoke with parliamentary privilege, said: “I say to [Mr Norman] that now overnight we discover that the consul general himself admitted that not only did he take part in this attack but that he was responsible, in his own words, for pulling his hair and tearing his scalp.

“This is the consul general, let alone the others that were there.”

Sir Iain said the UK must use its diplomatic power to dismiss from the country those Chinese officials involved, describing the decision to wait for the conclusion of Greater Manchester Police’s investigation “rubbish”.

Noting that expulsion could occur as soon as the identities of those involved were confirmed, he asked a press conference in London: “There’s no way you can prosecute these people, so why would you wait?”

Speaking alongside Mr Chan, according to the Telegraph he described the summoning of the Chinese charge d’affaires to the Foreign Office as “a gentle rap over the knuckles”.

Mr Norman said the charge d’affaires had been summoned in his capacity as acting ambassador, as China’s ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, was out of the country.

He told MPs: “We have made it absolutely clear to the Chinese embassy that the apparent behaviour of consulate general officials during the incident, as it appears from footage, which even now more is coming out, is completely unacceptable.

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“The independent police investigation is now under way. Greater Manchester Police have been clear there are many strands to what is a complex and sensitive inquiry and it may take some time.”

He added: “Let me be clear: if the police determine there are grounds to charge any officials, we would expect the Chinese consulate to waive immunity for those officials. If they do not, then diplomatic consequences will follow.”

At the press conference on Wednesday, Mr Chan, said he now feared for the safety of his parents, and was “shocked and hurt by this unprovoked attack”.

He said: “I thought I might be beaten to death because once you’re through the gates, anything can happen.

“There’s nothing the police can do because they’re not supposed to go through the gate.”

Afzal Khan – a Labour MP whose constituency, Manchester Gorton, contains the consulate – warned that inaction on the part of the UK risked further incidents.

In a letter to GMP, given to the Manchester Evening News, Mr Zheng claimed two members of staff had been assaulted in the incident.

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