China on Tuesday accused protesters of “illegally entering” its consulate in the British city of Manchester after footage of a pro-democracy Hong Kong protester being assaulted at the compound sparked outrage in Britain.
British police said a group of men emerged from the consulate during a peaceful demonstration on Sunday afternoon, dragged one of the protesters onto the premises and attacked him.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday the protesters were to blame and “violation of the peace and dignity of China’s overseas embassies and consulates will not be tolerated.”
“The troublemakers illegally entered the Chinese consulate-general in Manchester and compromised the security of the premises,” Wang said at a daily news briefing.
He called on the UK to “seriously carry out its duties and take effective measures to strengthen the protection of the premises and staff of Chinese embassies and consulates”.
The victim, a man in his 30s, suffered injuries and spent the night in hospital, local police said.
Video footage posted to Twitter showed a grey-haired man kicking banners held by protesters and tussling with a group of protesters outside the gates of the consulate.
Then a group of men was shown beating a prone protester outside the gates of the mission.
The BBC reported that the injured activist was from Hong Kong, which was engulfed by massive pro-democracy protests in 2019 before Beijing enacted a tough national security law to quell dissent.
“They dragged me in. They beat me up,” he told the broadcaster.
A UK government spokesman said on Monday reports of the incident were “obviously deeply worrying,” adding that it would be “inappropriate” to comment further while the police investigation was ongoing.
The protest came as China opened its five-year Communist Party Congress, where President Xi Jinping is expected to receive a historic third term in power.
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement around 40 people had gathered outside the consulate for a planned peaceful protest.
Just before 4 p.m. (1500 GMT), “a small group of men came out of the building and one man was dragged onto the consulate grounds and attacked,” police said.
“Fearing for the man’s safety, officials intervened and removed the victim from consulate premises.”
– “denial of freedom of expression” –
Police said they made no arrests and asked for witnesses to be contacted and to provide footage of the incident.
Several senior British politicians have condemned the use of force against a protester.
The newly appointed Chair of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, tweeted that Home and Foreign Secretary Suella Braverman and James Cleverly “need to investigate urgently”.
The Chinese Communist Party “will not take its beatings on protesters and denial of free speech to the streets of Britain,” she added.
And the influential former leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, called on the government to “demand a full apology from the Chinese ambassador to the UK”.
Nathan Law, a Hong Kong activist who fled to the UK, tweeted: “If the consulate staff responsible are not held accountable, Hong Kongers would live in fear of being kidnapped and stalked.”
He urged Cleverly and Braverman to “investigate and protect our community and the people of Britain”.