China removes six diplomats from UK after Manchester protester assault

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Bob Chen claims he was assaulted by several masked men at the Chinese consulate in Manchester.
Bob Chen claims he was assaulted by several masked men at the Chinese consulate in Manchester.   -  Copyright  MATTHEW LEUNG / THE CHASER NEWS / AFP, FILE

China's government has removed six diplomats from the UK after a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester was assaulted on the grounds of the Chinese consulate.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly confirmed on Wednesday that a Chinese consul general and five of his staff would leave the country.

All six were implicated in the assault of protester Bob Chen, which took place at the Chinese consulate in Manchester in October.

Chen claims that masked men dragged him into the consulate grounds during a peaceful protest and beat him up.

Police officers at the scene had to intervene and remove Chen, who suffered injuries to his face and back.

"The violence at China’s consulate in Manchester was unacceptable," Cleverly wrote on Twitter.

"Six Chinese consulate officials, including the Consul General, are being removed from the UK following the disgraceful incident in October," he added.

Cleverly said the Foreign Office had asked Beijing to waive the diplomatic immunity of the six officials to allow British police investigating to question them. But this was refused. 

"I am disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed or face justice," Cleverly added.

"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."

The incident in Manchester increased tensions between London and Beijing, as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated the "golden age" of diplomatic ties was over.

China's foreign ministry has maintained that Chen had illegally entered the consulate and that Chinese diplomatic staff had the right to maintain security on their premises.

The Chinese embassy in the UK criticised Cleverly on Wednesday, accusing him of making "irresponsible comments distorting the facts".

"The British government failed to effectively prevent the intrusion and attack by these rioters and to protect the Chinese consulate buildings and staff," the embassy said in a statement.

"The UK shows no respect for justice and the rule of law, and is irresponsible and disgraceful in the extreme," it added.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson added on Thursday that "strong and forceful counter-measures" will be taken.