The family of a British consulate staffer has refuted a claim by state media that their relative had been detained in China for visiting a prostitute.
Simon Cheng – a Hongkonger – has been held in mainland China since August 8 for breaking a public security law. Though he is facing 15 days of administrative detention, his whereabouts remain unknown.
Cheng was visiting Shenzhen for a business event, but went missing after boarding a high-speed train back to Hong Kong’s West Kowloon terminal. China’s foreign ministry only confirmed he was detained on Wednesday, a day after news broke.
Hu Xijin, editor of the state-backed tabloid Global Times, tweeted on Thursday that Cheng had been detained in Shenzhen for visiting a prostitute.
Some Westerners and #Hongkongers wrongly believe that it must be unjust when overseas residents are detained by mainland police. This kind of misunderstanding will cause big jokes: Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin #HuSays #香港 pic.twitter.com/jZeoSwI2A4
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 22, 2019
“Police didn’t contact his family requested by Cheng. Police are willing to help reduce damage to his reputation, UK diplomats and media ruined him,” he claimed.
A Global Times report said the claim had been made by the Lo Wu police.
Cheng’s family said they would not respond to the report. However, they told HKFP: “Everyone knows it is not the truth. But time will tell.”
Separately, a Facebook page run by Cheng’s family posted the Global Times news piece and said: “We can all take this as a joke.”
Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, has said Cheng was from Hong Kong and therefore the issue was an internal matter.
“Let me clarify, this employee is a Hong Kong citizen, he’s not a UK citizen, which is also to say he’s a Chinese person,” Geng said on Wednesday.
Founded in 1993, the Global Times is a state-run tabloid under the Communist Party’s flagship paper the People’s Daily.
Getting caught because of prostitution at West Kowloon XRL Station? Either “mile fast club” service available on the train or a lame lie we are used to target political figures.
BTW, how can be it done in a 17-min ride? You must be joking, Peking!
— Michael Mo (@michaelmohk) August 22, 2019
When the Express Rail Link opened, Hong Kong effectively surrendered its jurisdiction across a quarter of the new terminus, where immigration procedures are performed by mainland law enforcement agents. The mechanism was heavily criticised by pro-democracy activists and lawyers, who insist that it violates the Basic Law.