Manchester Police are investigating a fight that occurred outside the Chinese consulate after Hong Kong protesters and a group of diplomats clashed during a protest.
The whole thing lasted about a minute and the two parties were quickly separated by British police. But the diplomatic row it sparked will probably continue for a few more weeks, especially since Consul General Zheng Xiyuan in an interview on Thursday denied pulling a protester’s hair, saying it was his duty. .
The protester was “abusing my country, my leader, I think it’s my duty,” Zheng told Sky News.
The protester who was dragged into the premises of the consulate in turn told the media that he now feared for his safety and that of his family. This might sound like an exaggerated claim, but for those who have witnessed Beijing’s increased role in Hong Kong, it will ring true.
The first pangs of fear the city felt over Beijing’s expansion into the city came in 2016 when a book publisher named Lee Bo disappeared from the city and later surfaced on the mainland. It soon became apparent that the Chinese security bureau had secretly unearthed him, although under Hong Kong rules Chinese security officials had to obtain official permission before operating in the city.
Shortly after, his co-editor Gui Minhai disappeared from his vacation home in Pattaya, Thailand, and a few weeks later also appeared in China, apparently to apologize for his involvement in a traffic incident that had taken place there. years. It then became apparent that the real reason for their unlawful arrest and abduction was the books they were producing, which were salacious and focused on key Chinese leaders, including Xi Jinping. Gui has not been allowed to leave China so far, despite carrying a Swedish passport.
The new security law passed by Beijing in 2020 gave Chinese security forces the legal sanction to operate in Hong Kong under their own rules and removed most of the legal protection residents were previously guaranteed, prompting many to flee the city and head to places. such as Great Britain, Australia and Canada.
Many of them hold rallies and demonstrations in these places to highlight the events in Hong Kong, but there have been complaints that Chinese authorities are monitoring these people and intimidating them even in these places.
A report by international human rights group Safeguard Defenders said China had set up informal police stations linked to security officials.
in China in several countries. Beijing says the intention is to help Chinese citizens who live overseas and that such units have been established in the United States, Britain, Australia and Japan. But rights activists say it is aimed at targeting dissidents overseas and preventing Chinese citizens from joining protests against Communist Party rule.
There have also been reports that China is using its wealthy status to forge ties with political leaders and universities in foreign countries to tell stories about the ‘real China’, against what Beijing says are the biased versions. broadcast by Western media. Basically, this amounts to removing subjects that are anathema to the Communist Party.
China was on this trajectory even before Xi became the almighty leader. As his influence in the party grew with a cult of personality around him, groups within the party now seem too eager to show their loyalty. One reflection of this is the consul-general in Manchester’s anger at the display of a caricature of Xi, a perfectly normal thing in Britain where mockery of political figures dates back centuries.
Such aggressive Wolf Warrior diplomacy has often seen diplomats tangle with the media and governments of various countries. An example of this was when the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi warned Indian media in 2020 not to portray Taiwan as a country and Tsai Ing-wen as president, prompting a backlash.
The embassy on another occasion warned Indian media against using the “Tibet map”, saying it would be seen as interference in China’s internal affairs. “China firmly opposes any country, organization or individual supporting the anti-China separatist activities of the ‘Tibetan independence’ forces in any form and under any pretext,” he told Reuters. era. Never mind the fact that there is no law in India against such acts.
In 1959, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not hesitate to give sanctuary to the Dalai Lama when he fled to India and allowed him to establish a base in Dharamsala to continue his work. But when an event was held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s arrival there, senior Indian officials stayed away from the ceremony, so as not to anger Beijing.
The Chinese Communist Party dampened the global backlash as the country grew in economic power and flexed its muscles, using trade to fight its political battles. And most countries agreed because they had seen the anger Norway faced after dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.
Such aggression has escalated over time and under Xi, China has become sensitive even to tweets from non-political actors, as the US manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team discovered in 2019, although Twitter is banned in the country.
As Xi becomes the core of the Communist Party of China and the party positions itself as the controlling entity, Chinese officials are now bound to tolerate less bad press about Xi. Even the fake news that Indian news channels have been broadcasting about Xi’s arrest and overthrow could have ruffled the feathers of their patriotic troll army and a cyber reaction is plausible after the current political events in Beijing end. .
In the work report presented to Congress, Xi hailed the beginning of a new era and said that “China’s international influence, attractiveness and power to shape the world have greatly increased.” Perhaps what we saw in Manchester is the dawn of the new Chinese era envisioned by Xi.
(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also does not endorse the views of the author.)