China demands apology after 'slap' incident at UK Tory meeting

BIRMINGHAM (AFP) - Beijing's embassy in London on Monday (Oct 1) demanded an apology after a Chinese state TV journalist was removed from a fringe event about Hong Kong at the ruling Conservative party's conference.

A video showed the China Central Television (CCTV) reporter heckling at the event organised by the party's Human Rights Committee and then apparently slapping one of the organisers.

Police in Birmingham, central England, where the conference is taking place, said a 48-year-old woman was held in custody overnight after being arrested on suspicion of common assault.

Mr Enoch Lieu, a party activist helping at the event, told AFP she slapped him twice after he had asked her to leave for shouting at one of the speakers and accusing him of being anti-China.

"I stood in front of her and said can you please go, trying to show her the way out. Then out of the blue she slapped me in the face," said the 24-year-old, who was born in Hong Kong but schooled in Britain.

"I was obviously very shocked, as I was merely trying to escort her out... I didn't touch her."

He continued asking her to leave and she slapped him again, Mr Lieu alleges, saying the incident was only resolved when police arrived.

West Midlands police confirmed the woman was arrested on Sunday and held overnight.

In a statement on Monday, police said: "The woman has been released from custody and investigations continue."

Mr Lieu said he was shocked.

"It's an absolute assault to British democracy - right in the middle of the Conservative party conference," he said.

But the Chinese embassy posted on its website in English saying her ejection was "completely unacceptable".

"In a country that boasts freedom of speech, it is puzzling that the Chinese journalist should encounter obstruction in such a way and even assault at the fringe event when she simply raised a question and expressed her opinions," it said.

Chinese state broadcaster CGTN in a statement said China Central Television reporter Kong Linlin "was blocked and assaulted when she raised a question and expressed her opinion".

It quoted a CCTV spokesman saying it was "unacceptable" and called for an apology from organisers, urging British police to "protect her legitimate rights".

Asked if the party planned to apologise, a Conservative Party spokesman said: "The individual concerned was removed from the conference centre and has had their pass revoked."

The event featured Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders Martin Lee, Nathan Law and Benny Tai, as well as British MP Fiona Bruce and campaigner Benedict Rogers.

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