China has removed six diplomats from the UK, including its Consul General, after British police sought to question them over an attack on a Hong Kong protester at the Chinese consulate in Manchester in October.

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

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday that Greater Manchester Police “requested that six Chinese officials waive diplomatic immunity so they could be questioned” over the incident, which saw Hong Kong protester Bob Chan allegedly dragged into Chinese consulate grounds and beaten up while protesting outside the building.

“We informed the Chinese embassy… and we set a deadline which expired today,” making it clear that we expected them to take action,” Cleverly said on Wednesday. “In response to our request the Chinese government have now removed from the UK those officials, including the Consul General himself.”

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Cleverly said he was “disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed or face justice,” according to a BBC report.

“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,” Cleverly’s statement continued.

‘Barbaric’ attack

Speaking at a press conference days after the alleged assault, Chan called his treatment at the hands of Chinese officials “barbaric.”

Last month, Manchester police said they were investigating “a number of offences including assaults and public order offences” and “actively seeking” more potential victims in the incident. No arrests had been made.

Beijing said the protesters were to blame as they “illegally entered” the consulate and “endangered” the premises’ security.

The Chinese Consul-General in Manchester, Zheng Xiyuan, who was seen in video footage pulling Chan’s hair, told UK media “it’s my duty” to react as the man “abused” his country and his leader.

Flags that read “Hong Kong independence,” and “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” were displayed outside the consulate during the demonstration. The latter was a popular refrain during the protests and unrest in 2019 and has been ruled capable of inciting others to commit secession. Footage from the BBC showed a picture of China’s leader Xi Jinping with a noose around his neck.

The protest occurred on the same day that China’s 20th Party Congress opened, during which Xi was granted a historic third term.

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Mercedes is a Hong Kong-based British journalist with an interest in environmental and social issues. She has written for the Guardian and the BBC and previously worked at the South China Morning Post.