August 22, 2019 / 9:28 AM / a month ago

Employee of Britain's Hong Kong mission held in China over prostitution - report

BEIJING (Reuters) - An employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong has been detained in China for involvement in prostitution, the state-backed Global Times newspaper said on Thursday, as Britain said it continued to urgently seek information.

Simon Cheng, a staff member of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong, who was reported missing by local media after visiting the neighbouring mainland city of Shenzhen, is seen in an unknown location in this undated photo obtained from the Facebook page "Free Simon Cheng". “FACEBOOK / FREE SIMON CHENG” /via REUTERS

China’s foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the employee, Simon Cheng, had been detained in the border city of Shenzhen neighbouring Hong Kong.

In a report on its English-language website, the paper, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, cited Shenzhen police as saying Cheng had been detained for 15 days for “solicitation of prostitution”.

Police in Shenzhen’s district of Luohu said Cheng had violated article 66 of the law on administrative penalties for public security, it added.

The law provides for those who engage in prostitution, or who visit prostitutes, to be detained for a period ranging from 10 to 15 days, and they may also be fined 5,000 yuan (581 pounds).

Shenzhen police referred Reuters to the Global Times report, saying it contained all the relevant details, and declined to comment further.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Office said it was continuing to “urgently seek further information about Simon’s case”.

It added, “Neither we nor Simon’s family have been able to speak to him since his detention. That is our priority and we continue to raise Simon’s case repeatedly in China, Hong Kong and London and have sought to make contact with Simon himself.”

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

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

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

Britain, the United States and other countries have urged China to respect the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Gao Liangping; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez

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