It wasn't the protestors outside the Chinese consulate on Saturday who garnered international attention; it was the actions of three Houston police officers--now on desk duty after injuring Deputy Consul General Yu Boren. In an exclusive video taken minutes after the incident and later obtained by ABC13, you can see Yu. On Friday, he told us he suffered lacerations to his face, and in the video, the left side looks swollen. The mayor has said officers didn't know Yu was a diplomat.
But on the video, his wife tried to explain what happened.
"No no no, they chased him out," she said.
Last Saturday night, Yu was driving back to the consulate with his wife when a Houston police officer noticed his car had no license plate and pulled them over. In the middle of the traffic stop, Yu left and drove straight into the consulate garage. The officer followed. Sources say there was a struggle. Both Yu and his wife were handcuffed before anyone apparently realized where they were standing was Chinese soil.
"It's a huge building," said Geert Visser, who serves as the executive secretary of the Houston Consular Corps. "It's the largest consul building in Houston. It's a little flabbergasting that the police officers don't know that, but maybe they're not familiar with the area."
Visser says he couldn't be more surprised by what happened next. Sources say officers struggled with Yu, handcuffing both he and his wife for several minutes, before supervisors arrived and realized they were Chinese diplomats. Yu suffered minor injuries.
A security camera captured the incident, but the video obtained by ABC13 shows the response.
It shows Yu's wife is clearly upset and plainclothes investigators and HPD supervisors arriving before Yu heads to the hospital.
Congressman Al Green is concerned.
"My hope is that it will not become an international incident," said Green. "It's something that we can iron out locally."
But the incident is already international news. A headline on a website in India reads, Chinese diplomat assaulted by U.S. police. From China: Wrong detainment of consular officer. And in Great Britain, a headline reads, Diplomat beaten, and injured
Locally, both the mayor and council members say they're increasing protocol training.
"The obvious is sometimes forgotten, and sometimes we take things for granted, and maybe it's something we need to revisit. Maybe it's just an issue of training," said Houston city Councilman Ed Gonzalez.
The consular corps is hoping this will not damage Houston's international reputation.
"I think the relationship with the mayor's office and the police and the mayor are very good," said Visser. "This is an incident that unfortunately happened. "
Houston has the third largest consular corps in the country with more than 90 consular offices. Mayor Annise Parker says the police department will be getting addresses for all of them so something similar doesn't happen.
Parker has reached out to the Chinese consul general expressing her regret, but after viewing the security video she's backing the officers.
"While I wish the vice consul had been treated more gently, the officers apparently acted within their authority at the scene," Parker said.
The officers involved in the incident are all assigned to HPD's Central Command. They've been identified as:
June '09 sworn in
July '09 sworn in
Timothy J. Riley, II
Aug. 08 sworn in
The Chinese consulate in Houston is being very tight-lipped about the incident, but we have learned that the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the U.S. State Department are all investigating.