Chinese Consul-General Zheng Xiyuan has admitted to pulling the hair of a pro-Hong Kong independence protester who was beaten at the Chinese consulate in Manchester, England, on Sunday.
Zheng, whose office is under investigation for the violent incident, confirmed his actions against protester Bob Chan in an interview with Sky News, saying he had done them out of “duty.”
“Yes, because he [Chan] abused my country, my leader,” Zheng said. “I think any diplomat [would] if faced with such behavior.”
Zheng previously alleged that the protester had grabbed one of his staff members by the neck and “refused to let go.” As other staff members tried to pull their colleague back in, Zheng said the protester “plunged into the property himself.”
Zheng told Sky News that he sought to separate Chan from the consular staff. He insisted that the protester threatened his colleague’s life.
“I think it’s an emergency situation,” Zheng said. “That guy threatened my colleague’s life, and we tried to control the situation. I wanted to separate him from my colleagues. That’s a very critical point.”
However, viral videos of the chaos show Chan being dragged into the consulate’s grounds, where he was repeatedly punched and beaten by a group of masked men. He reportedly sustained several injuries, including a swollen and bruised head, a sore waist, a bruised neck and a bruised back.
When asked to explain the root of the violence, Zheng blamed the posters Chan’s pro-democracy group had carried outside the consulate. They allegedly showed an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping with a noose around his neck, as well as posters with messages such as “God kill CPC (Communist Party of China)” and “F*ck your mother.”
“They used very rude words, unacceptable. Everybody never accepts these kinds of words,” Zheng told Sky News. “It’s not right to put such banners close to my gate. After I advised them to remove [them] very politely, they refused.”
British officials have condemned the consulate’s actions as an attack against free speech. On Thursday, Foreign Office Minister Jesse Norman told parliament that the U.K. envoy to China has been instructed 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.”
“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,” Norman said.
Chan, who fled Hong Kong last year, fears potential retribution against his family. “He has nightmares about having loved ones being hurt,” his interpreter said on Wednesday.