Chinese consul general in Manchester admits to pulling Hong Kong protester’s hair


Zheng Xiyan tells Sky News that ‘any diplomat’ would have done the same in his shoes.

Chinese consul general in Manchester admits to pulling Hong Kong protester's hair

China’s Consul General Zheng Xiyan for Manchester, England, [left, wearing hat] pulls the hair of Hong Kong pro-democracy protester Bob Chan during a scuffle at the consulate gates, Oct. 16, 2022.

China’s Consul General in the northern British city of Manchester admitted on Thursday to assaulting a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester inside the grounds of the diplomatic mission as a peaceful protest gave way to attacks at the weekend.

Consul General Zheng Xiyan told Sky News that he was the grey-haired man in a hat seen on social media footage pulling the hair of protester Bob Chan.

“I think it’s an emergency situation. That guy threatened my colleague’s life … that day we tried to control the situation,” Zheng told the network, claiming that he “didn’t attack anyone.”

Asked again if he pulled Chan’s hair, Zheng responded:

“Yes … because he abused my country, my leader. I think it’s my duty,” he said. “Yes, I think any diplomat [would] if faced with such … behavior.”

Footage of the melee showed several men including Zheng gathered around a single protester on the ground, beating and kicking him. Police eventually step inside the gates to drag Chan away.

Sky News also aired footage of a man who appeared to be consular staff being kicked on the ground by unidentified men at the protest on Sunday, which was timed to coincide with the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th party congress in Beijing.


Chan, who fled Hong Kong amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent and political activism under a draconian national security law, told a news conference in London on Wednesday: “I am shocked and hurt by this unprovoked attack because I never thought something like this would happen in the U.K.”

Both Chan and the Greater Manchester Police denied claims from Chinese staff that Chan entered the consulate grounds under his own steam.

The investigation was launched after “a small group of men came out of the building and a man was dragged into the consulate grounds and assaulted,” the police said in a statement at the time.

A British foreign office minister told parliament on Thursday that it would expect Beijing to waive diplomatic immunity if police find enough evidence to bring criminal charges against any of its consular staff including Zheng.

The British government has described the attack on Chan as “unacceptable,” and summoned China’s Charge d’Affaires in London to explain what had happened. The Chinese ambassador is currently out of the U.K.

“I’ve instructed our ambassador to deliver a clear message directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing about the depth of concern with apparent actions by Consulate General staff,” junior foreign office minister Jesse Norman told the House of Commons on Thursday.

“Let me be clear that if the police determine there are grounds to charge any officials, we would expect the Chinese Consulate to waive immunity for those officials. If they do not, then diplomatic consequences will follow.”

His comments were backed up by a tweet from foreign secretary James Cleverly.

“If police determine there are grounds to charge any officials, we expect the Chinese ambassador to waive immunity for all those involved in the appalling incident at the Chinese consulate-general in Manchester,” he wrote.


Ruling Conservative Party lawmaker Alicia Kearns, who chairs the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, called for Zheng’s immediate expulsion.

“We now have an admission of guilt by the Chinese Consul General – he must be expelled immediately,” Kearns said via her Twitter account.

Lord Alton of Liverpool, who is a patron of the London-based rights group Hong Kong Watch, accused several Chinese diplomats including Zheng of taking part in the attacks, naming Zheng, deputy consul general Fan Yingjie, consul Gao Lianjia and counselor Chen Wei.

Chan’s media appearance came after Chinese consul general Zheng Xiyuan revealed to British newspapers The Guardian and the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday the contents of a letter he wrote to the Greater Manchester Police. 

The Guardian quoted Zheng’s letter as saying the protesters had displayed slogans that were “deliberately designed to provoke, harass, alarm and distress our consular staff.” He said the activists were “asked politely” to remove the imagery “but refused to do so”.

The banners included a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping with a noose around his neck, along with slogans in Chinese saying “Wipe out the CCP” and “[expletive] your mother,” Zheng wrote.

However, Hong Kongers in the U.K. told RFA the second banner meant “celebrate my ass,” in a satirical reference to the 20th party congress.

Neither the English-language nor the Chinese-language websites of the foreign ministry mentioned the incident on Thursday, although spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday that representations had been made over the Manchester incident, describing the protesters’ actions as “lawless harassment.”

Several organizations representing Hong Kongers in the UK — including Hong Kong Liberty, HKAID and Hong Kongers in Britain, have said they plan to protest on Oct. 23, in support of the protesters who were attacked, and to call for a more definite response from the British government.

“We are immensely shocked and deeply saddened by the abhorrent violent assault of protesters at the Chinese Consulate-General in Manchester on Oct. 16, 2022,” Hong Kongers in Britain said on its Facebook page, announcing a rally in Birmingham.

“We will not be intimidated into silence or be beaten into submission, the HongKongers has had to flee once, we shall not allow white terror to spread in our adopted country,” the group said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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