A senior Chinese diplomat in Manchester pictured grasping a Hong Kong protester’s hair during a scuffle at an anti-Beijing protest has defended his actions, saying it was his “duty” to react after demonstrators “abused” his country.

In a video interview with Sky News aired on Wednesday, Consul-General Zheng Xiyuan said he acted peacefully and “did not attack anybody” when embassy staff in the northern English city clashed with protesters at the consulate last Sunday.

manchester consulate
Scuffle outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester, UK. Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Leung/The Chaser News.

Online footage showed that the consul-general grasped a protester’s hair, before the man was dragged into the Chinese consular grounds where he was kicked and beaten up. The man, layer identified as Bob Chan, escaped with the help of the police and other demonstrators.

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Asked by Sky News if such behaviour was acceptable for a senior diplomat in the UK, Zheng said he was trying to control an “emergency situation” in which his colleagues’ lives were “threatened” by Chan.

“The man abused my country, my leader… I think it’s my duty,” he said.

The altercation came after protesters rallied peacefully by displaying signs that called for the “destruction” of the Chinese Communist Party and flags advocating Hong Kong independence outside the consular building.

The protest organised by UK-based Hongkongers was staged as China began its 20th Communist Party Congress in Beijing. The twice-a-decade leadership meeting is set to hand President Xi Jinping a historic third term as party chief.

Hongkonger Chan condemned his treatment by Chinese diplomats as “barbaric” at a news conference in London on Wednesday, saying a group of masked men had pulled him by the hair from behind. But he said he could not say “100 per cent” that Zheng attacked him.

Chinese authorities have maintained that their envoys were not to blame for the scuffle. Personnel were injured and the security of the Chinese premises was threatened, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

manchester consulate
Demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester, UK. Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Leung/The Chaser News.

His response to the incident in Manchester could not be found in the transcript of the briefing on the foreign ministry’s website.

China also lodged an offcial complaint with Britain and called for more assistance to protect the Chinese diplomats.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.