An activist protesting in favor of democracy in Hong Kong was beaten outside of the Chinese consulate in Manchester, prompting British politicians and activists to call for an investigation. Screen capture/BBC/Facebook
Oct. 17 (UPI) -- British politicians and activists are calling for an investigation into the reported beating of a pro-democracy Hong Kong activist at the Chinese consulate in Manchester.
The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. Sunday during a pro-democracy protest held outside the consulate by the Hong Kong Indigenous Defense Force.
The protest was organized to coincide with the speech that Chinese President Xi Jinping gave Sunday to open the weeklong 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the group said.
Video widely circulated of the incident online shows it began when people wearing riot helmets seemingly associated with the consulate grabbed a large painting depicting Xi that the protesters had erected outside the facility's gates
The two helmeted men were confronted by protesters as they tried to carry the painting into the compound. Amid the commotion, one of the demonstrators was seen in the footage as having been pulled into the consulate's grounds where he was held down and violently beaten by several people until a police officer on the scene extracted the protester from the pile.
Greater Manchester Police told UPI in a statement Monday that it was aware of the incident and has since enacted a police patrol plan for the area.
"Officers were present and responded immediately to diffuse the situation. Inquiries are ongoing at this time to understand the full circumstances," it said.
A spokesperson for the consulate told the BBC that the protesters had hung "an insulting portrait" of Xi at the consulate's main entrance, which "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 incident attracted widespread concern from politicians and human rights and pro-democracy activists, who called for the government to open an investigation.
Former Conservative Party leader and current member of Parliament Iain Duncan Smith described the incident as "deeply worrying" while calling on the British government to "demand a full apology from the Chinese ambassador" and for those responsible to be sent back to China. Duncan Smith was sanctioned by the Chinese government in 2021
Labor Member of Parliament Sarah Owen called for an investigation to be immediately opened into the incident in order to "ensure people fleeing persecution feel safe [in] our country."
Conservative Member of Parliament Alicia Kearns, who is also the chair of the foreign affairs committee, similarly called for Britain's secretaries of home and foreign affairs to "urgently investigate."
"The CCP will not import their beating of protesters and denial of free speech to British streets," she said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party by its initials. "Chinese ambassador should be summoned & if any official has beaten protesters, they must be expelled or prosecuted."
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Watch's co-founder and chief executive, Benedict Rogers, similarly demanded that those responsible be prosecuted or expelled.
"They must not be allowed to get away whit this, they cannot be allowed to hide behind diplomatic immunity and they must be investigated and, if found guilty by an investigation, they should either face criminal prosecution or immediate explosion," he said in a statement.
"We cannot allow the Chinese Communist party regime's thuggery, brutality, inhumanity and criminality on the streets of Britain against peaceful demonstrators exercising their basic right to protest."
Relations between democratic nations and China have frayed in recent years as they accuse Beijing of committing gross human rights violations, such as genocide in Xinjiang province, and suppression of free speech in Hong Kong.
In June of 2020, Beijing instituted a draconian national security law over Hong Kong after mass pro-democracy protests brought the city to a standstill.
The law attracted widespread condemnation from Western nations, including Britain, which responded with sanctions against Beijing and by creating a pathway to citizenship from some 3 million Hong Kongers.