Foreign Secretary summons senior Chinese diplomat after scuffle at consulate in Manchester

Video report by ITV Granada Reports Political Correspondent Lise McNally

The UK has summoned the Chinese ambassador's deputy to demand an explanation after a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester was allegedly attacked in the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester.

Foreign Office minister Jesse Norman said the UK Government is "extremely concerned at the apparent scenes of violence" at the consulate and had told the Chinese embassy of the need to allow people to protest peacefully.

"The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has issued a summons to the Chinese charge d'affaires at the Chinese embassy in London to express His Majesty's Government's deep concern at the incident and to demand an explanation for the actions of the consulate staff.

"All those on our soil have the right to express their views peacefully without fear of violence.

"FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) officials expressed that clearly to the Chinese embassy yesterday."

Scuffles broke out outside the consulate building on Sunday afternoon after 30 to 40 pro-democracy protesters gathered and put up posters.

One protester had to be rescued by police after he said he was dragged into the grounds of the consulate and beaten.

The injured campaigner told BBC Chinese that unidentified men had ripped down the posters before he was attacked.

A spokesperson from China's Foreign Ministry said "harassers" had "illegally entered" the grounds and "endangered the security of the Chinese diplomatic missions and consulates".

They continued to say that they took "necessary measures to maintain the peace and dignity of the premises".

The statement said: "What I want to stress is that the tranquility and dignity of Chinese embassies abroad cannot be violated.

"I hope the British side will earnestly fulfil its responsibilities and take effective measures to strengthen the protection of the premises and personnel of Chinese embassies and consulates in the UK."

Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday: "What I want to stress is that the peace and dignity of Chinese embassies and consulates abroad must not be violated."

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Commons: "On Sunday these peaceful protesters gathered outside the Chinese consulate to campaign for human rights in Hong Kong.

"What we saw was the Chinese consul general then ripping down posters and peaceful protest and soon followed grievous bodily harm against a Hongkonger, one of whom was hospitalised for taking part in a peaceful protest.

MP for Manchester Gorton Afzal Khan said he was "sickened that such an event took place in my own constituency".

Credit: Matthew Leung / The Chaser News

He added: "These scenes... have no place on the streets of my city, or our country. The UK stands for freedom, the rule of law, and democracy."

The pro-democracy protester spent the night in hospital after suffering several injuries.

Police say they are investigating the incident, which saw officers intervene amid fears for the man's safety.

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Potts said: "We understand the shock and concern that this incident will have caused not just locally, but for those much further afield who may have connections with our communities here in Greater Manchester.

"It is clear what began as a peaceful protest unexpectedly escalated and our officers acted professionally in response to a hostile and dynamic situation to help the victim and ensure he didn't come to any further harm."

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said  “What took place yesterday outside the Chinese Consulate in Manchester was deeply worrying and has no place in a city region like ours that prides itself on peoples’ right to protest peacefully."   

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know