LONDON (Reuters) - A female Chinese reporter has been charged with assault after allegedly slapping a volunteer at an event on the sidelines of Britain’s Conservative Party conference last month while they were discussing political freedoms in Hong Kong.
Kong Linlin, a 48-year-old reporter for state-run China Central Television, was arrested after the incident at the event that featured pro-democracy supporters from the former British colony.
West Midlands Police said she had been charged with common assault and would appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Nov. 7.
China Central Television, also known as CCTV, is Beijing’s largest TV network, with dozens of channels and ambitious plans to expand internationally.
Kong did not respond to a request for comment left at her company’s offices in London.
On its website, CCTV said the guilty party had pressed charges to try to obscure the facts, and the broadcaster supported Kong in reserving the right to make counter charges.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” principle, with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed elsewhere in China.
But calls for outright independence are a red line for China’s Communist Party leaders, who deem the global financial hub to be an inalienable part of the nation.
Critics say Hong Kong’s rights landscape has deteriorated in recent years amid a spate of controversies, including the jailing of young activists and disqualifications of pro-democracy lawmakers from the legislature.
In Beijing on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Kong faced unfounded charges after being “obstructed in every possible way and even treated roughly” when trying to express views.
“China expresses grave concern over this kind of confounding of right and wrong,” Hua told a regular news briefing.
“The attitude of the British police has been inconsistent, and makes one suspect the reasons behind it.”
China would brook no foreign interference over Hong Kong issues, she added.
“We urge the U.K. side to take practical actions to safeguard the healthy development of China-U.K. relations,” she said.
Reporting By Andrew MacAskill in LONDON and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Stephen Addison and Clarence Fernandez