China removes consul general and five others from Manchester after attack on protester

Hong Kong protester Bob Chan scuffles with people who are trying to drag him into the Chinese consulate in Manchester
A Hong Kong pro-democracy protester who was attacked outside the consulate in Manchester Credit: AP

China has pulled out six officials wanted for police questioning over the assault of a protester outside the nation's consulate in Manchester, the Foreign Secretary has said.

James Cleverly said he is "disappointed" the individuals including consul general Zheng Xiyuan will not face justice over the attack on Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner Bob Chan.

Alicia Kearns, the chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the diplomats of having "fled the UK like cowards".

Greater Manchester Police wanted to interview Zheng Xiyuan and five of his staff over the attack in October.

Bob Chan (pictured) was taken to hospital for his injuries after the alleged attack in Manchester. Credit: Matthew Leung/ The Chaser News

The Foreign Office requested Beijing waive the diplomatic immunity of the individuals to allow the interviews to take place.

Mr Cleverly said: "We informed the Chinese embassy of that and we set a deadline which expired today, making it clear that we expected them to take action.

"In response to our request, the Chinese government have now removed from the UK those officials, including the consul general himself.

"This demonstrates that our adherence to the rule of law, the seriousness with which we take these incidents, has had an effect and we will continue on the world stage and domestically to abide by the rule of law and we expect others to do likewise."

In a separate statement to MPs, Mr Cleverly noted that the Vienna Convention allows states to remove consular members at any point, but said: "I am disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed or face justice".

"Nonetheless, it is right that those responsible for the disgraceful scenes in Manchester are no longer - or will shortly cease to be - consular staff accredited to the UK," he added.

Mr Chen feared he "might be beaten to death" after being dragged into the grounds of the consulate as scuffle broke out during protests, but was rescued by police.

On Wednesday, he said the "withdrawal of these Chinese diplomats gives me a sense of closure" over the "unacceptable and illegal" attack.

Conservative MPs were not placated by the move, however.

Ms Kearns said: "China's diplomats who attacked protesters have fled the UK like cowards, making clear their guilt and denying justice to those protestors grievously assaulted.

"The Foreign Office must now declare those who have fled persona non grata, and make clear they are never again welcome in the UK."

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: "The flagrant assault on a peaceful democracy campaigner in Manchester needs more than allowing those responsible to leave the UK uncharged and with their heads held high.

"Letting China take them back isn't justice. We should have kicked them out weeks ago."

MP for Gorton, Mancheser Afzal Khan said the incident was intolerable and sent shockwaves through the country and beyond.