Family of detained UK consulate worker rejects ‘made-up’ report

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Simon Cheng is not a UK citizen, he is an employee of the British Consulate. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 August 2019
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Family of detained UK consulate worker rejects ‘made-up’ report

  • Simon Cheng disappeared after visiting Shenzhen on August 8
  • Beijing confirmed they detained an employee of a British consulate

BEIJING: The family of a staffer at the UK consulate in Hong Kong have rejected a “made-up” report by Chinese state media that he was detained in the mainland for visiting prostitutes.
Simon Cheng disappeared after visiting the city of Shenzhen from the semi-autonomous city on August 8, and the Foreign Office in London said both British officials and relatives have been unable to speak to him since.
The Global Times, a tabloid state-run newspaper, said he had been detained for “soliciting prostitutes,” citing police in Shenzhen, which lies on the China-Hong Kong border.
But a Facebook page run by Cheng’s family dismissed the report.
“This is a made-up crime of soliciting prostitution, everyone should see it’s a joke,” the comment said.
Beijing confirmed Wednesday an employee of the British consulate had been “placed in administrative detention for 15 days as punishment” by police in Shenzhen for breaking a public security law.
“Let me clarify, this employee is a Hong Kong citizen, he’s not a UK citizen, which is also saying he’s a Chinese person,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
According to the Global Times, Cheng could be detained for up to 15 days and fined up to 5,000 yuan ($700) for the alleged crime.
In an editorial on Friday, the tabloid said it was at Cheng’s request that police did not contact his family and that “thanks to the British foreign ministry and media, which have been hyping it, the case is now fully exposed.”
Cheng was in the process of returning via high-speed train on August 8 and sent messages to his girlfriend as he was about to go through customs.
He has not been seen or heard from since.
The family said it had hired a lawyer in Shenzhen who had been unable to find or speak to the detained consulate employee.
Police in Shenzhen did not reply to AFP’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said in a statement Thursday that it was continuing “to urgently seek further information about Simon’s case.”
The incident comes as relations between Britain and China have become strained over what Beijing calls London’s “interference” in pro-democracy protests that have wracked Hong Kong for three months.
China promised to respect the freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory after its handover from Britain in 1997 — including freedom of speech, unfettered access to the Internet and an independent judiciary — but protesters say these rights are being eroded.
Chinese authorities have increased their inspections at the border since the protests, including checking the phones and devices of some passengers for photos of the demonstrations.
Beijing has faced criticism in the past for detaining foreign nationals amid ongoing diplomatic spats, and for accusing dissidents or activists of sex crimes.


In Texas, Trump and Modi vow relentless fight on extremists

Updated 37 min 16 sec ago

In Texas, Trump and Modi vow relentless fight on extremists

  • Taking the flavor of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance

HOUSTON: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against “terrorism,” vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and skeptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside a football stadium in Houston.

To the bhangra beats of four drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd estimated by organizers at 50,000.

Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, “We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

Taking the flavor of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance.

Protesters gathered outside of the NRG Stadium with placards and shirts that said, “Free Kashmir” and accused Modi of violating religious freedom — a cause frequently evoked by the Trump administration.

The event — dubbed, with a Texan twang, “Howdy, Modi!” — was billed as the largest gathering ever by a foreign leader other than the pope in the US.

Hoping to ensure that it remains bipartisan, organizers also invited prominent Democrats.

Presidential contender Bernie Sanders, who did not attend, was more direct, saying that Trump showed a “deafening silence” on the clampdown in Kashmir.

“I know that when a president stays silent in the face of religious persecution, repression and brutality, the dangerous message this sends to authoritarian leaders around the world is, ‘Go ahead, you can get away with it,’” Sanders wrote in the Houston Chronicle.

Speaking of his record as if on the campaign trail, Trump made no mention of many Indians’ concerns over US visa policy — but highlighted his efforts to turn back undocumented immigrants from Central America.

Hardly known for his celebrations of ethnic diversity, Trump said to Indian-Americans, “We love you.”

“You enrich our culture, you uphold our values, you uplift our communities and you are truly proud to be American — and we are proud to have you as Americans,” he said.

Sporting a vest in yellow embroidery from Modi’s home state of Gujarat as well as a cap in the Indian tricolor, Bhavin Parikh of Sacramento, California said he wanted to show support for Modi and called the event “historic” due to Trump’s presence.

But he demurred on whether the gathering indicated backing Trump.

“It is not a question of Democrat or Republican. It’s the American president supporting the Indian prime minister,” he said.