LONDON – A Chinese reporter arrested by police following an alleged assault Sunday at the ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference has been released without charge, according to Beijing’s embassy in London, which has demanded an apology over the incident.
Kong Linlin, a Europe-based reporter from state-run China Central Television, was taken away by police after allegedly slapping a volunteer at a meeting about erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong, held on the sidelines of the Conservative Party Conference and organized by its Human Rights Committee.
Enoch Lieu, a student volunteer at the meeting, alleged that Kong slapped him twice in the face when he asked her to leave for disrupting the meeting.
On his Twitter account, he said she started shouting from her seat while human rights activist Benedict Rogers was giving a speech, calling him and other panelists “puppets.”
In a video clip posted online, Kong was seen yelling as she was being removed from the venue: “There (is) no (democracy) in the U.K.! I am a journalist here, you have no right (to remove me)! You have no right (to) touch me! Leave me alone! I have right to protest!”
“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 24-year-old Lieu, who was born in Hong Kong but schooled in the U.K.
“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, Lieu alleges, saying the incident was only resolved when police arrived.
Police in Birmingham, central England, where the conference is taking place, confirmed that a 48-year-old woman from London was held in custody overnight after being arrested on suspicion of common assault.
The woman was “later released while investigations continue” and had not yet been charged, according to the police.
A CCTV statement posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website Monday said Kong was released “amid stern representations from the Chinese Embassy in the U.K. and public pressure” and accused event organizers of having “handled the incident inappropriately.”
In an earlier statement posted on the same website, the embassy had written: “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 … when she simply raised a question and expressed her opinions. This is completely unacceptable.”
“The organizer of fringe event should apologize to the Chinese journalist,” it added.
Asked if the party planned to apologize, a Conservative Party spokesman said: “The individual concerned was removed from the conference center and has had their pass revoked”.
Rights activist Rogers tweeted Monday, “The way to avoid such incidents happening again is for Chinese state reporters and agents to behave with a degree of civility, by not shouting at or slapping people. Or by banning Chinese state media and agents from such events if they won’t.”
Lieu described the incident as “an absolute assault to British democracy — right in the middle of the Conservative party conference.”
The event where the incident occurred featured Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders Martin Lee, Nathan Law and law professor Benny Tai, as well as British MP Fiona Bruce.
In its statement, the Chinese Embassy also demanded that the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Committee “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs.”
The video can be viewed at bit.ly/2Qovgau.