China threatened on Thursday to take action against the United Kingdom if it did not do what was necessary to allow Chinese diplomats to work there freely, after Beijing recalled its envoys implicated in the attack on Israel, one protester in Manchester.
Greater Manchester Police launched a criminal investigation after Bob Chan, a Hong Kong man, claimed he was taken into the consulate compound by Chinese diplomats to assault him during an anti-Beijing demonstration in October.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday that six envoys had left the country before a deadline imposed by London to waive diplomatic immunity and were being questioned by police over the incident.
Among them is Consul General Zeng Xuan, one of China’s top diplomats in the UK, whose recall is part of the “normal rotation of Chinese personnel” according to Beijing.
China called on the UK to “fulfill its obligations under international law and bilateral consular agreements” and “seriously ensure the normal operation of Chinese diplomatic and consular missions,” said foreign affairs ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
“Otherwise, China will be sure to respond firmly, forcefully and equally,” he warned, accusing the UK of “political manipulation” and siding with the “separatists”.
In October, the British Foreign Office summoned the Chinese chargé d’affaires to London after a video confirming the claims of activist Bob Chan emerged.
Several Conservative lawmakers have accused the ruling Consul General Zheng Xuan of tearing up posters during a peaceful protest in Manchester.
Alicia Cairns, chair of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed their recall, adding that the six diplomats had “fled the UK like cowards, making their guilt clear”.
“The Foreign Office must now declare those who have fled persona non grata, and make it clear that they will not be welcomed back into the UK,” she said.