Hong Kong protesters to rally for detained British consulate worker

Simon Cheng was revealed to be missing after failing to return from an Aug 8 meeting in the border city of Shenzhen and hasn't contacted his family since.
Simon Cheng was revealed to be missing after failing to return from an Aug 8 meeting in the border city of Shenzhen and hasn't contacted his family since.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong protesters will rally for the release of a British consulate worker whose family said was detained during a recent visit to mainland China, as near-daily demonstrations continue in the financial hub.

The "Save Simon Cheng" event is scheduled to take place on Wednesday (Aug 21) evening at the UK Consulate General in central Hong Kong.

Mr Cheng, 28, was revealed to be missing on Tuesday after failing to return from an Aug 8 meeting in the border city of Shenzhen, and has not contacted his family since.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang confirmed on Wednesday Mr Cheng has been held under a 15-day administrative detention process in Shenzhen. This means he can be held roughly until Friday.

Mr Geng said the issue was an internal Chinese matter and not a diplomatic dispute, saying that Mr Cheng is a Hong Kong citizen.

Britain's foreign office said on Tuesday that it was "extremely concerned" by the report and was seeking information from the authorities in Hong Kong and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, which includes Shenzhen.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Immigration Department and a spokesman for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong said they had no additional information on Mr Cheng's situation on Wednesday.

 
 
 

Hong Kong police said on Tuesday that a missing person investigation was underway and that they were in close touch with Chinese authorities.

DIPLOMATIC CONCERNS

Mr Cheng's disappearance fuels concerns about the safety of diplomatic staff in China, already heightened by the December detention of Michael Kovrig, a Hong Kong-based security analyst on leave from Canada's foreign service. Mr Kovrig has since been accused of espionage and remains in secret detention, entitled to only monthly visits from Canadian diplomats.

The Chinese government has repeatedly said it respects international agreements protecting diplomats, and that foreigners who abide by the country's laws have no reason to fear detention.

Mr Cheng is employed by the British consulate and works for Scottish Development International, which encourages firms to do business with Scotland. He holds a British national (overseas) passport, the New York Times reported, entitling him to consular representation.

The British government returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. Tensions between the two countries have simmered in recent weeks, after Beijing accused it of meddling in its former colony by defending the rights of anti-government protesters who have brought the city to a standstill since June.