The counter-intuitive thing about being trapped in an embassy is that everyone involved always wants to get you out.
In the case of Julian Assange, rooming in Knightsbridge since June 2012, both the Ecuadorian and British governments have batted various schemes around to secure his exit. That August, William Hague warned of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act, which seemed to allow a Foreign Secretary to withdraw ‘consent’ from an embassy, stopping it, in effect, from being an embassy. It subsequently emerged that the Ecuadorians too were considering schemes to facilitate Assange’s departure, which included putting him inside a diplomatic bag, using ‘fancy dress’, a Bond-esque run across rooftops ‘towards a nearby helipad’ or via a trip to Harrods, where, it was presumably assumed, getting lost was virtually guaranteed.
The problem of extracting someone from a London embassy is a relatively unusual one, but not unique. In October 1896, Sun Yat Sen, the future revolutionary founder of modern China, was visiting his old friend and medical school teacher Dr James Cantlie in London. Sun was wanted by the Chinese authorities for attempting to organise an uprising in Canton (Guangzhou) against the Qing government the previous year; a number of his co-revolutionists were arrested or killed but Sun escaped, travelling to America and then on to Britain. Continue reading »