DALLAS – Three Houston police officers have been restricted to desk duty after they followed a Chinese diplomat into the parking garage of the Chinese Consulate, arrested the man and injured him, the Houston mayor said.
Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement that the officers’ duties will remain limited pending an investigation into how Chinese diplomat Yu Boren was injured last Saturday.
Officials in China’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday saying police harassed and beat a deputy consul-general while he was driving to the consulate. The statement said a family member also was involved, but did not say if that person was injured.
The consulate in Houston did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press. Houston police and the U.S. State Department are investigating the incident.
“China urges the U.S. … to quickly investigate the details of this incident and to look into the persons responsible to ensure that the Chinese diplomatic and consulate personnel and premises are not violated,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement. “The Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Chinese Embassy and the Houston consulate have already made solemn exchanges with the U.S. side.”
Under international practice, the premises of foreign embassies and consulates are outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, and diplomats have legal immunity.
Houston police tried to stop a car that was missing a license plate, CBS News reported. When the car didn’t stop, they pursued it into a garage. Police handcuffed and arrested the driver, injuring him, the report said. CBS News identified the official as Ben Ren Yu. The Houston consulate website lists a deputy consul-general, Yu Boren.
The officers said they were unaware they had pursued the diplomat into the Chinese Consulate’s parking garage, Parker said.
The U.S. State Department was taking the matter very seriously and the findings of the investigation will be shared with China “as soon as appropriate,” said Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
A Houston police spokesman declined to comment. The police force did not immediately respond to a request for a copy of the offense report, which typically is not released while an incident remains under investigation.
U.S.-China relations only recently emerged from a tense period aggravated by spats over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, trade and China’s currency policy. Comments on at least two major Internet portals had apparently been deleted, an indication the case was considered sensitive, perhaps because of its impact on U.S.-China ties.
Houston’s police chief has ordered officers to receive a list of addresses for every consulate in the city.
“This is important as Houston has the third-largest number of consulates in the country,” Parker said. “We cherish our international residents and want to assure them they are welcome in our city.”