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Three Houston police officers have been assigned desk duties as city and federal authorities scrutinize the arrest of a local Chinese diplomat who says police hit him in the face during a traffic stop last weekend at the Chinese Consulate.
The Chinese government responded to the Saturday arrest of Houston deputy Consul General Boren Yu, who said a security camera recorded the incident, with a call for a speedy investigation. The Chinese government also noted that “solemn exchanges” had passed between China and the U.S. as a result of the incident. Under the Vienna Convention, local law officers are prohibited from entering foreign diplomatic offices in all but the most extreme circumstances.
Mayor Annise Parker, in announcing the reassignment of the officers on Friday, commended newly appointed Police Chief Charles McClelland's handling of the case.
“This is important as Houston has the third-largest number of consulates in the country,” the mayor said. “We cherish our international residents and want to assure them they are welcome in our city.”
Reassigned to desk duties were Central Patrol Division officers Timothy Riley Jr., Quang Tran and Victor Olivares. Riley has been with the department since 2008; Tran and Olivares since last year.
In an interview on Friday, Yu said he was traveling with his wife in a consulate vehicle when he saw a police patrol car with flashing lights behind him. Yu said he stopped his vehicle and waited several minutes, but drove off when the officer remained in his car and took no apparent action.
Yu said he drove to the Chinese Consulate in the 3400 block of Montrose. When Yu drove through the consulate garage's automatic gate, the police car followed him.
Yu said he “made it clear” he was a Chinese diplomat, but the officer handcuffed him anyway. Yu said the officer struck him in the face, but he did not address the circumstances or specify when the alleged assault took place. The Chinese official also suffered hand and neck injuries, according to a co-worker at the consulate.
Roberta MacInnis, a Houston Chronicle features editor, said she was shopping at a nearby business when she saw a Houston police officer lying on top of a handcuffed man who was face-down on the garage floor.
Yu said the entire episode was captured on tape by a garage security camera.
The diplomat and his wife later were released at the scene.
A source familiar with the officers' version of the events said Yu's vehicle was spotted about 4:30 p.m. Saturday traveling a short distance from the consulate without a rear license plate. With the police car following with flashing lights, the vehicle wended its way through Montrose for about five minutes, finally pulling into the consulate garage.
As the officer exited his patrol car, the source said, Yu greeted him with loud curses.
A consulate spokesman said Yu's rear license plate had been stolen, but the diplomat thought he could drive the vehicle because the front plate still was in place. Texas law requires front and rear license plates.
Aaron Suder, staff attorney with the Houston Police Officers' Union, dismissed Yu's claim of a police assault as “categorically false.”
“When and if there's a video that's made public we are absolutely confident that the actions of the police officers involved will be justified,” he said.
Unresolved on Friday was whether city police legitimately had jurisdiction on consulate property. Parker reported that police said they were unaware they were on property owned by the Chinese government.
The consulate building is marked with a large sign and usually flies the Chinese flag. The garage is marked with a smaller sign designating it as consulate property.
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, police can enter a consulate's property only by the invitation of the mission or to protect the consulate from a grave threat such as a fire or mass shooting, said South Texas College of Law professor Geoffrey Corn.
“If they thought the person they were pursuing was dangerous to consular staff,” he said, “there's a provision that says permission is presumed. But this is nothing like that.”
Parker said the new police chief has issued a directive that all beat officers receive the address of every consulate in the city.
On Friday, city Councilman Al Hoang, who represents a heavily Chinese-American district, praised the Parker administration's handling of the case. “The Chinese Consulate has a great relationship with our city and I know that relationship will continue,” he said. “
Hmm....was the Chinese diplomat Black or something??
In all seriousness, how did the cops not realize they were beating someone up in a CHINESE CONSULATE. They must have been blind not to notice they were on Chinese territory.