Pro-democracy protester, Bob Chan, a Hongkonger, was injured after being dragged onto the consulate grounds and beaten by men on 16 October. Mr Zheng, who was effectively in charge of China's Manchester outpost, denied attacking Mr Chan after he was identified in photographs, and accused of doing so by a senior Conservative MP. But he later told reporters he had been trying to protect his colleagues, adding that Mr Chan was "abusing my country, my leader. I think it's my duty".
China's decision to remove the diplomats is seen by some as an attempt to de-escalate the dispute and avoid further tit-for-tat exchanges between it and the UK.