China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country’s embassy in the UK did not respond to a request for comment.
In that position, Liu has emerged as one of the most prominent defenders of Beijing on the global stage, taking on a public-facing role that was once rare for Chinese diplomats.
“We never pick a fight or bully others. But we have principles and guts. We will push back against any deliberate insult, resolutely defend our national honor and dignity, and we will refute all groundless slander with facts,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said earlier this year, responding to a question about the country’s approach to diplomacy.
A controversial track record
Relations have soured since, however, as the UK has taken a tough line in regard to Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and restricted Chinese telecoms giant Huawei over espionage fears.
“This is not true. The fact just shows the opposite. People in Xinjiang enjoy happy life. They call for order to be restored in Xinjiang,” he said.
Praise at home
The fallout from Brexit will likely dominate the agenda of whomever succeeds Liu, whether Zheng or another candidate.
CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed reporting from Hong Kong.