Britain Extremely Concerned as Hong Kong Consulate Staffer Held in China

August 21, 2019 Updated: August 21, 2019

HONG KONG—Britain said on Aug. 20 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 Aug. 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.

Cheng’s family confirmed his disappearance in a Facebook post on Tuesday night, saying he traveled from Hong Kong to Shenzhen on the morning of Aug. 8 for a business trip.

“He traveled back to Hong Kong by high-speed rail on the evening of the same day, and sent messages to his girlfriend via WhatsApp and Wechat while he was about to pass customs at about 10 p.m. We lost contact with him since then,” the post said.

Spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry Geng Shuang confirmed at a daily news briefing on Aug. 21 that Cheng had been detained in China’s border city of Shenzhen for “violating the law.” Hong Kong police did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Hong Kong has been gripped by anti-government protests in recent weeks, with Britain, the United States, and other countries urging China to respect the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing has accused Western countries of meddling in its affairs.

“We are providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong,” a representative of Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement released by the British embassy in Beijing.

Cheng’s family said it had sought assistance from the British consulate on Aug. 9. but no further information has been obtained so far.

“We feel very helpless, and are worried sick about Simon. We hope that Simon can return to Hong Kong as soon as possible,” they said.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department confirmed via email it had received a “request for assistance from subject’s family member” and “had provided the family with proper advice and practical assistance.”

By Noah Sin and Tom Westbrook