Manchester, demonstrator beaten up by Chinese diplomats deals another blow to China's image
The British authorities have opened an investigation. Consul General Zheng Xiyuan was also allegedly involved in the beating of the Hong Kong citizen. More and more nations in Europe are criticising the diplomacy of the Chinese 'wolf warriors'. European export industries, however, are calling for a pragmatic approach.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The episode of a Hong Kong demonstrator being manhandled by Chinese consulate staff in Manchester has dealt another blow to the image of Beijing's diplomacy in Europe.
Manchester metropolitan police report that about 40 protesters were standing in front of the consulate building on October 16; a group of people then came out of the diplomatic mission and dragged a man named Bob Chan into the courtyard of the consulate, beating him up. Some police officers rescued the unfortunate man by snatching him from the hands of his attackers.
London immediately opened an investigation into the incident, which became even more serious after pictures showed that Consul General Zheng Xiyuan had also participated in the beating. The Chinese diplomat defended himself by saying that he was only trying to protect his staff and accused the protesters of insulting China and its leader.
The protesters, many from Hong Kong, had hung up a poster criticising Xi Jinping to coincide with the opening of the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress, which is expected to guarantee the supreme leader a third term in power.
The British government made it clear that the sit-in protest was peaceful and entirely legitimate. The majority of British MPs are demanding a tough response from the Truss administration. This is not the first time that excesses by Chinese envoys have occurred in Europe, with a striking case occurring in March 2021 in France.
However, Xi's China does not seem to want to abandon the aggressive line of the 'wolf warriors', the new generation of its diplomats. On the sidelines of the 20th Party Congress, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Xhaoxu remarked that "Chinese diplomacy will continue to display fighting spirit, improve our ability to fight, always stand ready at the frontline to protect our national interest and dignity".
Repressive policies internally and combativeness externally are prompting more and more European countries to distance themselves from Beijing. On 18 October, the newly elected Prime Minister of Sweden expressed concern about Chinese military pressure on Taiwan, emphasising that his government will never accept threats to democratic countries.
In August, Estonia and Latvia left the 16+1, the informal forum that brought together China and 16 Central, Eastern and Southern European states. Lithuania had left the Beijing-led cooperation group last year, and the Czech Republic is considering a similar move.
On 10 October, the EU Parliament's Foreign Trade Committee gave the green light to the adoption of an instrument to counter acts of economic coercion by a third country. However, the measure must be approved by the European Council: in fact it is a response to the Chinese boycott of Lithuanian exports after Vilnius strengthened diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Two of the Continent's souls are are vying with each other over relations with China. Under pressure from the warlike adventures of Russia, a close ally of Beijing's at least on paper, the Scandinavian, Central and Eastern European nations want a tougher approach. The European locomotives, Germany and France, are for a more pragmatic line: according to their export-oriented industries, Europe cannot afford disagreements with China while cutting trade, financial and energy ties with Moscow.
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