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British consulate employee Simon Cheng Man-kit detained in Shenzhen 'for soliciting prostitute': report

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 22/8/2019 Sarah Zheng
a man holding a sign: Activists concerned about the welfare of Simon Cheng gather outside the British consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photo: AFP © AFP Activists concerned about the welfare of Simon Cheng gather outside the British consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

A Hong Kong employee of the British consulate in the city was detained in mainland China for 15 days for "solicitation of prostitution”, a Chinese state-run tabloid reported on Thursday.

Quoting police in Shenzhen, the Global Times reported that Simon Cheng Man-kit, a trade and investment officer at the consulate’s Scottish Development International section, had violated Chinese laws for public security by visiting a prostitute.

The penalty for the offence is between 10 and 15 days in detention and a possible fine of 5,000 yuan (US$705).

The report comes two weeks after Cheng disappeared while returning to Hong Kong from a business trip to Shenzhen, in a case the consulate said it was "extremely concerned” about.

It also comes amid anti-government protests in Hong Kong, triggered by a now-suspended extradition bill. Beijing has also hit out at London for its comments on the Hong Kong protests, accusing it of interfering in China’s internal affairs.

According to the Global Times, Shenzhen police said Cheng asked police to not tell his family of his detention.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, tweeted on Thursday afternoon that local police wanted to "help reduce damage to [Cheng’s] reputation”.

But an earlier Global Times article attacked Cheng for political posts reportedly found on his social media accounts.

The article suggested that Cheng did not support "one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and was sympathetic to independence for the special administrative region and Taiwan. It also included an image of a person being slapped in the face, captioned: "I am hitting you on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.”

On Facebook, a page called "Release Simon Cheng” responded to the solicitation allegations in the Global Times report by saying: "Visiting a prostitute? Everyone can continue to treat this as a joke. Ha.”

The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday that Cheng, 28, had been held under administrative detention in Shenzhen for violating "public security management regulations”.

"I also want to stress that this worker is a Hong Kong citizen – not a British citizen – and he is Chinese. And this is entirely a matter of China’s internal affairs,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Dozens of Hongkongers rallied outside the British consulate for Cheng’s release on Wednesday. One of the rally’s organisers, Michael Mo Kawn-tai, said Cheng held a British National (Overseas) passport, which is not equivalent to British citizenship but does grant consular help outside China.

Cheng’s family said they hired a mainland lawyer, who was unable to find him in various detention centres in Shenzhen.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. 

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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