Police investigation into Chinese consulate assault ‘complex and sensitive’
police investigation into the treatment of a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester who was beaten at the Chinese consulate in Manchester is “complex and sensitive” and will take some time, a senior officer has said.
Outrage was sparked when a man was dragged into the grounds of the building on Sunday and had to be rescued by UK police who feared for his safety.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the attack unacceptable, and said he had summoned the Chinese charge d’affaires, but it was one of his officials who spoke to him after the incident on Sunday afternoon.
In an update on Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Rob Potts said: “We’re aware and totally understand the amount of focus on this investigation due to the weekend’s events causing shock and concern in the city and much wider afield.
“Our experienced detectives are diligently working through a lot of evidence and statements to ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of the timeline of events that led to this initially peaceful protest unexpectedly escalating in the way it appears to have done.
“There are many strands to this complex and sensitive inquiry, and we will do all we can to achieve as many answers as possible, but I must stress that this investigation will take time and we will provide as regular an update as we can in due course.”
Scuffles broke out outside the building after 30 to 40 pro-democracy protesters gathered and put up posters.
The injured campaigner told BBC Chinese that unidentified men had ripped down the posters before he was attacked.
UK police are not normally allowed to enter consulate grounds without permission. The properties fall under UK law, but staff who work there may have diplomatic immunity.
Discussing his thoughts on the incident, Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “We said this is absolutely unacceptable, that the protests were peaceful and legal. They were on British soil and it is absolutely unacceptable for this kind of behaviour.
“Now, my understanding is the Greater Manchester Police will be conducting an investigation into this and when I see the details of that investigation, I’ll then decide what more we might need to do on that.”
During an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme later, Mr Cleverly did not rule out prosecuting those involved in the attack, regardless of diplomatic immunity.
He said: “I don’t want to speculate about what we might do in response to the information we get from the Greater Manchester Police.”
The UK yesterday summoned the Chinese ambassador’s deputy to demand an explanation for the incident as the Chinese ambassador is believed to be out of the country.
China’s foreign ministry has rejected the protester’s account, stating its diplomatic missions abroad have the right to “take necessary measures” to maintain security.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday: “What I want to stress is that the peace and dignity of Chinese embassies and consulates abroad must not be violated.”