Mon, Jul 01, 2019 - Page 5 News List

China pressed UK police to arrest dissident

2015 STATE VISIT:A probe by the Independent Office for Police Conduct uncovered ‘unprecedented political interference’ in the Met’s tactics during Xi Jinping’s trip

The Observer

Chinese President Xi Jinping poses with then-British prime minister David Cameron at the front door of Chequers, near Ellesborough, England, on Oct. 22, 2015.

Photo: AFP

Extraordinary evidence has emerged that the Metropolitan Police targeted a Chinese dissident in London following concerted pressure from Beijing.

Shao Jiang (邵江), a Tiananmen Square survivor who fled China and was granted political asylum, was arrested in London in October 2015 during a state visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Video footage shows Shao holding two A4 sheets of paper, one saying “End Autocracy” and the other saying “Democracy Now” before being aggressively detained by officers.

After being taken to a local police station for a breach of the peace the 52-year-old was subsequently arrested for conspiracy to commit a Section 5 Public Order Act offence. This is a more serious charge that then enabled officers to search his London home, seizing computers that Shao suspects might have been given to Chinese authorities before they were returned to him.

Police watchdog investigators then found evidence that the Met’s treatment of Shao, one of the last protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, was influenced by pressure from Beijing to ensure Xi was not “embarrassed” by protests during his visit.

Following Chinese pressure, documents show UK government officials, understood to be from the Home Office, also made “unusual requests” to the police about managing the state visit, an intervention that one officer described as “unprecedented.”

Investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found proof that demands from Chinese officials, including its security service, might have informed the decision to arrest Shao for conspiracy.

“There is evidence to indicate that these requests, together with their consideration of the ongoing risk to the CSV [Chinese state visit] and to Shao’s safety, thereby influenced the decision to arrest Shao for conspiracy,” an IPOC report said.

Speaking for the first time about the incident Shao told the Observer: “I expected so much more in a democratic country. We are now confronted with the chilling reality that we live in a country where the suppression of peaceful protests has greatly undermined the fundamental values of its own civil liberty and democracy.”

The revelations of political pressure emerged during an IOPC investigation into Shao’s arrest.

The watchdog on Wednesday announced that police officers questioned over the arrest would not face disciplinary action.

Yet it has also emerged that the IOPC completed its investigation into the treatment of Shao in June last year, finding then that Met officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

The Met responded to the misconduct verdict and, despite no new evidence emerging, the IOPC completely reversed its decision and found no case to answer.

Emily-Jade Defriend, a solicitor for the law firm Bindmans who is representing Shao, said: “This is completely unacceptable conduct by a regulator which holds itself out to be an independent watchdog of the police. If the IOPC is unwilling to stand by its findings after a lengthy investigation, then it simply isn’t fit for purpose.”

Shao, a doctoral researcher on democracy, condemned the regulator’s U-turn as “morally wrong and procedurally incorrect.”

Although significantly redacted, the IOPC report refers to a letter from a Met silver commander, who coordinates public order strategy, that “included a list of the ways the Chinese delegation had tried to apply different types of pressure to both silver and more widely, the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service].”

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