LONDON (Reuters) – China has removed six officials from Britain whom police wanted to question over the treatment of a man who said he was kicked and punched as he protested outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester, the foreign minister said Briton James Cleverly.
Cleverly said the removal of officials, including the consul-general in Manchester, came after a request by police for questioning about the incident.
“I am disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed or face justice,” Cleverly said in a written statement.
“However, it is right that those responsible for the shameful scenes in Manchester are no longer – or will soon cease to be – accredited consular staff in the UK.”
The Chinese embassy responded, saying Britain failed to protect its staff, adding that it had started its own representations with Britain over the incident.
He said the consul-general had returned to China with a “normal rotation of Chinese consular officials”.
Police were investigating an alleged assault on a protester who was beaten by several men after being dragged inside the grounds of a consulate in northwest England during a demonstration against President Xi Jinping.
“The images taken to social media showed what appeared to be completely unacceptable behavior by a number of people near the entrance to the consular premises,” said Cleverly, who summoned the acting ambassador for the accident.
Cleverly said that police had asked six Chinese officials to waive diplomatic immunity so they could be questioned and the embassy notified, giving them a week to act.
“In response to our request, the Chinese government has now removed those officials from the UK, including the consul-general himself,” Cleverly told broadcasters.
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement they would continue to investigate the events surrounding the protest.
The October protest took place on the first day of the twice-decadal congress of the ruling Communist Party of China in Beijing, during which Xi won an unprecedented third term.
The Chinese embassy said the protest was a “violent and disruptive provocation”, adding that Britain had failed to meet its obligations to protect the consulate and its staff.
“Furthermore, the UK government sided with those violent rioters,” the embassy spokesman said. “This is totally unacceptable to the Chinese side.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alex Richardson)