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China’s beatings on British soil

China’s beatings on British soil

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In yet another sign of China’s disrespect for human rights, Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors were dragged into the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester and beaten up. What does it mean for UK-China relations?

[Clip: Protesters and police shouting]

This is the moment unidentified men wearing riot helmets and stab vests came out of the Chinese consulate in Manchester… and began to destroy pro-democracy banners. 

On a Sunday afternoon, dozens of people from Hong Kong had gathered outside the iron gates of the grand consulate building. They were there to protest the 20th Chinese Communist Party congress which had just begun in Beijing.

On the pavement they’d put up several large banners opposing Chinese influence in Hong Kong. One depicted the Chinese leader Xi Jinping as an emperor who wears no clothes. 

And it was this satirical banner which the masked men targeted as they suddenly rushed out from behind the gates.

They immediately tore it down and scuffles broke out.

In the video you can see them kicking, punching and swinging at the protestors.

Then, an older, grey-haired man joins the masked men. He grabs a protestor by his hair, drags him through the gates and into the grounds of the consulate. 

Once inside he keeps hold of the protester as the masked men start beating him.

Things become so bad that police officers step through the gates and pull the man to safety.

Later Greater Manchester Police released a statement… 

“Shortly before 4pm a small group of men came out of the building and a man was dragged into the Consulate grounds and assaulted. Due to our fears for the safety of the man, officers intervened and removed the victim from the Consulate grounds.

Greater Manchester Police

The person they saved is Bob Chan.

Bob had hair pulled from his scalp during the attack and spent a night in hospital.

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What happened at the embassy has fuelled wider concern that the UK has been too accepting of China’s human rights abuses – all in the name of trade and investment. 

China has a foothold in many crucial sectors in this country: nuclear power, scientific research, university funding, property development, banking… In 2020, China was the UK’s second largest trade partner. 

This strong trading relationship was all part of the plan set in motion by David Cameron’s government back in 2015, when China’s President Xi Jinping was invited here for a state visit…

“Your visit to the United Kingdom marks a milestone in the year of cooperation and friendship between the United Kingdom and China.”

Queen Elizabeth II, 2015

“Regardless of the challenges, we shouldn’t be running away from China. The message is clear: through the ups and downs, let’s stick together and create a golden decade for both of our countries.”

Chancellor George Osborne, 2015

President Xi visited Manchester University and went to Manchester City’s football academy where he met the star players. 

Chinese money soon poured into the region: a new airline with direct flights to Beijing, investment in property; and, a constant stream of Chinese tourists and  students.

The economic benefits to the region were there for all to see. You can understand why politicians, both in Manchester, and across the country, wanted in. 

But whilst British politicians allowed the cash to flow, there was growing concern about China’s human rights abuses: political repression of Chinese citizens, disappearances of democracy activists in Hong Kong and growing reports of detention camps for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

In recent years that relationship between Britain and China has begun to break down. The public outcry at the human rights abuses became too loud for politicians to ignore. 

The Chinese technology firm Huawei was banned from Britain’s new 5G networks, Chinese involvement in British nuclear power is now under review and most recently the Chinese delegation was blocked from attending the lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth II.

But is all this too late to stop the spread of Chinese influence in the UK – and with it the Communist Party’s policy of violent political repression? 

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Since that incident at the consulate British politicians who were already concerned about China have been speaking out. 

Senior Conservative MP Alicia Kearns raised an Urgent Question in the House of Commons…

“We cannot allow the CCP to import their beating of protestors, their silencing of free speech and their failure – time and time again – to not allow protest on British soil.”

MP Alicia Kearns

The older man with grey hair who was seen dragging a protestor is thought to be the Chinese consul general.

China has not commented on his alleged involvement, but the foreign ministry in Beijing has defended the actions of consulate staff. They claim people had “illegally entered” the grounds. An account that’s at odds with video footage and statements from police.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, has demanded the Chinese provide an explanation.

“What I did was summoned, I demanded that the Chinese chargé d’affaires – the most senior Chinese official in the UK – came to the Foreign Office. We made it absolutely clear that this behaviour is unacceptable. ”

James Cleverly, UK Foreign Secretary

Consulate staff have diplomatic immunity, which means they cannot be arrested or prosecuted by UK authorities. Instead, there are calls to expel any Chinese diplomats found to be involved. This would mark a serious escalation of tensions with Beijing.

But some say this would be a price worth paying to ensure the Chinese government’s policy of political repression is kept off the streets of Britain.

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This episode was written and mixed by Rebecca Moore.


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