China has removed six officials from Britain who police wanted to question over the treatment of a man who said he was kicked and punched while protesting outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester, British foreign minister James Cleverly said.
Cleverly said the removal of the officials, including the consul general in Manchester, came after a police request to interview them over the incident.
“I am disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed or face justice,” Cleverly said in a written statement.
“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 Chinese embassy hit back, saying Britain had failed to protect its staff, adding it launched its own representations with Britain over the incident.
It said the consul general had returned to China under a “normal rotation of Chinese consular officials”.
Police had been investigating the alleged assault on a protester who was beaten by several men after being dragged inside the grounds of the consulate in northwest England during a demonstration against President Xi Jinping.
“Images carried on social media showed what appeared to be completely unacceptable behaviour by a number of individuals near the entrance to the consular premises,” said Cleverly, who summoned the acting ambassador over the incident.
Cleverly said that police had requested six Chinese officials waive diplomatic immunity so they could be questioned and the embassy had been informed, giving them a week to act.
“In response to our request, the Chinese government have now removed from the UK those officials, including the consul general himself,” Cleverly told broadcasters.
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement it would continue to investigate the events surrounding the protest.
The October protest took place on the first day of the twice-a-decade congress of China’s ruling Communist Party in Beijing at which Xi won an unprecedented third leadership term.
The Chinese embassy said the protest was a “violent, disruptive provocation”, adding Britain had failed to fulfil its obligations to protect the consulate and its staff.
“What is more, the UK government has sided with those violent rioters,” and embassy spokesperson said. “This is totally unacceptable to the Chinese side.”