China Withdraws 6 Diplomats From U.K. After Consulate Scuffle

LONDON — China is withdrawing six diplomats from Britain after a police inquiry into a violent clash during a demonstration at China’s Consulate in Manchester led to a standoff between London and Beijing, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Wednesday.

The British authorities had asked six Chinese officials to waive diplomatic immunity and allow an investigation into how a pro-democracy protester from Hong Kong was injured after being dragged onto the consulate grounds and beaten on Oct. 16.

Instead, the Chinese authorities decided to repatriate six officials, including one of its senior diplomats, the consul general, Zheng Xiyuan. He has denied that he beat a protester, though not involvement in the episode.

The episode underscored the growing tension between the two nations as the British government hardens its policy toward Beijing, while still trying to engage with the Chinese government.

In a speech last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain said that the “golden era” in relations with China was at an end, identifying the country as a “systemic challenge to our values and interests.”

He stopped short, however, of describing China as a threat and said that Western nations should work with Beijing on shared challenges such as climate change and the health of the global economy.

Speaking in London, the foreign secretary, James, Cleverly, said that a deadline for action set by Britain over the case had expired on Wednesday, prompting the action from China.

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