A man protesting President Xi Jinping’s Hong Kong policies outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester, England, was dragged from the street into the building’s grounds and beaten by consulate employees before a British police officer breached the grounds and helped usher him back to safety.
The man had gathered along with other demonstrators holding signs and posters, one of which depicted Xi standing in front of a mirror naked except for boxers and a crown. Consulate workers reportedly first asked the protesters to move across the street. When they didn’t, one of the consulate’s staffers came out and kicked some of the protesters’ posters down, at which point a chaotic scuffle broke out.
At the end of it, the man had been deposited onto the grounds of the consulate. A group of consulate staffers pummeled him behind the gates as onlookers shouted and at least two British officers stepped in, with one helping to drag him back out.
By law, British officers are not allowed to enter the grounds of the consulate without permission.
The unidentified man, who was taken to the hospital with bruising and was in stable condition as of Sunday, told the BBC, “It’s ridiculous. We are supposed to have freedom to say whatever we want here.”
Various British politicians decried the violence, demanding that the consulate employees responsible be expelled to China. Iain Duncan Smith, a member of Parliament who once led the Conservative Party, tweeted that the government must “demand a full apology from the Chinese ambassador to the UK.” The U.K. police said they would launch a probe into the incident, and a spokesman for British prime minister Liz Truss called it “deeply concerning.”
A spokesperson for the consulate said the protesters had “hung an insulting portrait of the Chinese president at the main entrance. This would be intolerable and unacceptable for any diplomatic and consular missions of any country. Therefore, we condemn this deplorable act with strong indignation and firm opposition.”
The incident coincides with China’s Communist Party congress, at which Xi, who has enacted an increasingly authoritarian style of government that has included suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, is expected to win another five-year term.
Relations between China and most western countries have deteriorated in recent years, and the U.K. is not an exception. The U.K. has recently banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from the country’s 5G networks, condemned what it declared a genocide in Xinjiang, and offered millions of Hong Kongers who want to flee Xi’s reign the chance of citizenship in the U.K.
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