Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 17 October 2022


Mon 17 Oct 2022 17.52 AEDT

A pro-democracy protester has said he was attacked inside the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester before being rescued by British police and other protesters.

The man was part of a small group demonstrating on Sunday at the start of the 20th Communist party congress in Beijing, which is expected to extend the rule of the leader, Xi Jinping, for a further five years.

The man who was beaten up, named only as Bob, said he was punched and kicked and his hair pulled, and the attack left him bleeding and bruised. A photograph published by VOA Cantonese showed some of his injuries, just below his eyes.

“They shouldn’t have done that. We are supposed to have freedom to say whatever we want here [in the UK],” Bob, originally from Hong Kong, told the BBC.

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Images from the attack show a grey-haired man in a blue scarf holding Bob by his hair just inside consulate gates, as other men attack him and a British policeman tries to pull him away.

That man had previously come out of the consulate, demanded the removal of satirical posters of Xi, and torn down a protest banner.

The exiled Hong Kong politician Nathan Law said the attack had terrifying implications for Hong Kong citizens who had fled China’s crackdown to the UK, and called for a strong British government response.

“If the consulate staff responsible are not held accountable, Hongkongers would live in fear of being kidnapped and persecuted,” he said on Twitter. “Foreign and home secretaries must investigate and protect our community and people in the UK.”

The Foreign Office did not respond to requests for comments.

A spokesperson for the consulate told the BBC the protesters had “hung an insulting portrait of the Chinese president at the main entrance”. “This would be intolerable and unacceptable for any diplomatic and consular missions of any country. Therefore, we condemn this deplorable act with strong indignation and firm opposition,” the spokesperson added.

There was widespread condemnation of the attack in Britain and calls for a strong response from activists and politicians across the political divide.

The former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith called for the home secretary, Suella Braverman, to “look into this urgently”.

“The UK government must demand a full apology from the Chinese ambassador to the UK and demand those responsible are sent home to China,” he tweeted.

Sarah Owen, the Labour MP for Luton North, shared video of the attack, warning that it threatened the security of refugees. She said: “This is deeply worrying. An investigation needs to happen immediately, with answers given, to ensure people fleeing persecution feel safe our country.”

Benedict Rogers, the chief executive of the campaign group Hong Kong Watch, said: “This appalling act of thuggery by CCP (Chinese Communist party) in Manchester cannot go unpunished.

“[The Foreign Office] must summon [Chinese ambassador] Zeng Zeguang first thing tomorrow morning, prosecute those responsible, and if they can’t be prosecuted, expel CCP officials responsible – without delay.”

In his speech opening the party congress in Beijing, Xi celebrated China’s crushing of Hong Kong’s autonomy, and warned Taiwan that the “wheels of history” were turning towards Beijing taking control of the island democracy.

Britain opened a path to citizenship for Hong Kong residents after Beijing’s crackdown on a pro-democracy movement swept away the city’s autonomy and the rights including freedom of expression and protest.

There have already been more than 140,000 applications for visas under the scheme and the British government expects hundreds of thousands of people to move to the UK within five years.

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