Chinese diplomats who beat up a protester in Manchester were allowed to “flee like cowards” senior Tories claimed today as they raged at ministers for being a soft-touch. In October a Hong Kong pro-democracy protester demonstrating outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester was assaulted by staff, including the country’s consul-general.
The Chinese diplomats involved have all left the country, refusing to comply with a police investigation into the matter.
Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who is chair of the foreign affairs select committee, demanded answers after accusing the Government of not having taken “any meaningful action”.
Asking an urgent question in the House of Commons, she said: “The consul general and five others brutalised a refugee on British soil and, rather than being expelled or prosecuted, they’ve been allowed to slip off – to flee like cowards – which makes their guilt even more evident.
“By giving a week’s notice to them, which goes so far beyond the Vienna convention, we have essentially denied Bob Chan any sense of justice.
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“At this point, I’m afraid the Government is being opaque and I cannot identify any meaningful action that they have taken beyond giving them notice to flee this country and essentially allowing the Chinese Communist Party now to claim that it was simply the end of the diplomats’ term in Britain.
“They were not removed, they were not expelled, it was just time for them to leave our country.
“I am not asking the Government to be tough for toughness sake; justice is needed to deter future action and to make sure that we stand by the refugees who come to this country for safety.”
The Foreign Office had asked China to either forego the diplomatic immunity granted to the officials to allow them to be interviewed by police or for them to be banned from the country.
There was anger after Britain gave Beijing seven days notice of its demands that the officials return home, far longer than the three days required under UN rules.
China claimed the consul-general had left the UK after he “completed his term of office”.
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Tory MP Tim Loughton accused the diplomats of having been allowed to “scuttle off into the night”, adding: “At the very least the Government must now, retrospectively, say that they are persona non grata.”
Meanwhile, Sir Desmond Swayne accused the Government of being timid, warning: “China does always of course display its absolute contempt when it identifies weakness amongst its opponents and counterparts.”
Responding, to the furious MPs Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the Government’s “firm diplomacy and our actions demonstrate the seriousness with which we took this incident”.
She added: “We are disappointed that these individuals will not be interviewed.
“It is therefore right that those identified by the police as involved in the disgraceful scenes in Manchester are no longer or will shortly cease to be consular staff accredited to the UK.
“Throughout this process, we have been clear that in the UK we adhere to the rule of law, we follow due process and respect the operational independence of our police.
“Our firm diplomacy and our actions demonstrate the seriousness with which we took this incident and the correct outcome which has now been reached.
“The UK will always use our diplomacy to demonstrate the importance of abiding by the rule of law and we expect others to do the same.”