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British consulate employee missing in mainland China



Britain said on Tuesday it was “extremely concerned” by reports that a staff member at the consulate in its former colony of Hong Kong had been detained in mainland China.

Simon Cheng did not return to work on August 9 after visiting the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen the previous day, Hong Kong news website HK01 reported, citing an interview with his girlfriend and family.

“Pray for me,” Cheng messaged his girlfriend as he headed back to Hong Kong via high-speed Express Rail Link from Shenzhen, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

It’s unclear where Cheng was detained, but it may have been at a joint checkpoint at the Express Rail Link’s West Kowloon Terminus, which is technically Chinese territory.

A protester attempts to kick a tear-gas canister during a demonstration in Hong Kong, August 14, 2019.
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Cheng’s girlfriend was told by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department on August 10 that Cheng was under administrative detention on the mainland, which can last as long as 15 days.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said he was unaware of the incident when asked at a press briefing on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

Hong Kong has been gripped by anti-government protests in recent weeks, with Beijing accusing Britain and other Western countries of meddling in its affairs.

Britain, the US, and other countries have urged China to respect the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.

“We are extremely concerned by reports that a member of our team has been detained returning to Hong Kong from Shenzhen,” a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office representative said in a statement released by the British embassy in Beijing. “We are providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong.”

The British consulate in Hong Kong referred Reuters to the Foreign Office statement.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the case, and Hong Kong police did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment. Hong Kong’s Immigration Department confirmed via email it received a “request for assistance from subject’s family member” and “had provided the family with proper advice and practical assistance.”

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, Cheng is a permanent resident of Hong Kong, and it’s unclear what documents he used when traveling to China.

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