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China detains British consulate worker with no explanation

British Consulate General in Hong Kong. (MaDonna HM/Wikimedia Commons)
August 21, 2019

China has detained an employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong for allegedly breaking Chinese law.

Simon Cheng, 28, who was last heard from on Aug. 8, was confirmed detained early Wednesday by Chinese officials.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that Cheng “has been given a 15-day detention punishment by Shenzhen police for violating the Public Security Administration Punishments Law of the PRC,” according to his published remarks.

Chinese law permits detention up to 15 days without charge.

“This employee is a Chinese citizen from Hong Kong rather than a British citizen, that is to say, he is a Chinese and this is entirely China’s internal affair,” Geng said.

Cheng is a trade and investment officer for Scottish Development International at the British consulate, and had been reported missing on Aug. 9 following a meeting in Shenzhen, which prompted a missing persons investigation by Hong Kong police.

Cheng’s girlfriend Li told The Guardian that she last heard from him via a text message before he was expected to cross the border.

“Ready to pass through the border … pray for me,” the message had said.

Cheng was a self-described “social activist, according to The Guardian, though Li said, “As far as I know, he did not attend any of the protests, even the 1 million march.”

Li said she is worried about Cheng and called on Chinese officials to release him.

“We are extremely concerned by reports that a member of our team has been detained returning to Hong Kong from Shenzhen … We are providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong province and Hong Kong,” a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told The Guardian.

Geng took aim at the UK’s statements on the matter, calling them “erroneous.”

“The UK recently has issued various erroneous remarks concerning Hong Kong. China has stated its solemn position in public and lodged stern representations with the UK. We again urge it to stop finger-pointing and fanning the flames on the Hong Kong issue,” Geng said.

“We’ve asked them to stop issuing irresponsible remarks and interfering in China’s Hong Kong affairs. The UK knows that clearly,” he added.

China’s Public Security Administration Punishments Law, which Cheng is accused of violating, says, “A person who disturbs public order, endangers public safety, infringes on the rights of person and property or hampers social administration, which is harmful to the society and which, according to the provisions of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, constitutes a crime, shall be investigated for criminal responsibility according to law; and if such an act is not serious enough for criminal punishment, the public security organ shall impose on him a penalty for administration of public security according to this Law.”

It’s not yet clear what alleged action Cheng took to violate the law.