Chinese police free detained UK consulate staffer

Simon Cheng, an employee of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong, went missing earlier in August after he was detained in China. (AFP/Anthony Wallace)
Updated 24 August 2019

Chinese police free detained UK consulate staffer

  • Public security authorities say Simon Cheng Man-kit was released as scheduled
  • Cheng was detained for violating mainland Chinese law

HONG KONG: Chinese police said Saturday an employee at the British Consulate in Hong Kong who was detained on the mainland has been released.
Public security authorities in Shenzhen said Simon Cheng Man-kit was released as scheduled after 15 days of administrative detention.
The Luohu public security bureau in Shenzhen, the mainland city neighboring Hong Kong, made the announcement on its Weibo microblog account.
Cheng was detained for violating mainland Chinese law and “confessed to his illegal acts,” the statement said, without providing further details.
A Hong Kong police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the case, confirmed that Cheng had returned to the city, but did not provided further details.
“Simon is released. Simon is safe,” said Max Chung, organizer of a rally earlier this week to urge the British government to step up efforts to free Cheng. “We’ve just managed to talk to him over the phone,” he said, adding that Cheng would answer any further questions but did not say when.
Cheng’s detention stoked tensions in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has been rocked by months of antigovernment protests. Cheng, a Scottish government trade and investment officer, was hired locally and did not have a diplomatic passport. He was detained after he left for a business trip on the mainland at a Hong Kong high-speed train station.
The Chinese government has said he was detained for violating public order regulations. The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned nationalistic tabloid, said Thursday he was detained for “soliciting prostitutes.” China often uses public order charges against political targets and has sometimes used the charge of soliciting prostitution.
The British Consulate did not respond to a request for comment.


Soloman Islands breaks ties with Taiwan after Chinese ‘dollar diplomacy’

Updated 16 September 2019

Soloman Islands breaks ties with Taiwan after Chinese ‘dollar diplomacy’

  • Taiwan now has formal relations with only 16 countries worldwide, but China claims Taiwan as its territory and says it has no right to formal ties with any nation
  • The Solomons is the sixth ally Taiwan has lost since Tsai came to office in 2016 — following Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador

TAIPEI: The Solomon Islands’ government has cut official ties with Taiwan in a new blow to President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election in January amid rising tension with China.
Taiwan now has formal relations with only 16 countries worldwide, but China claims Taiwan as its territory and says it has no right to formal ties with any nation.
Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told reporters in Taipei late on Monday that it would immediately close down its embassy in the Solomon Islands and recall all of its diplomats.
Wu said China was aiming to meddle with Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections in January with “dollar diplomacy.”
“The Chinese government attacked Taiwan purposely before our presidential and legislative elections, obviously aiming to meddle with the voting. The government strongly condemns this and urges people to hold on to its sovereignty and the value of freedom and democracy,” Wu said.
“Taiwan has never bowed to pressure from one single setback, and it won’t be defeated by this blow,” Wu said, urging support from allies in the region to defend Taiwan’s much-valued freedom and democracy.
Solomon Islands is the sixth country Taiwan will lose as a diplomatic ally since Tsai came to office in 2016 — following Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and El Salvador.
Tsai, who’s facing an uphill battle in January’s vote, has been criticized over her handling of Beijing, who suspects of her pushing for Taiwan’s formal independence.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move came after the Solomon Islands’ months-long review of the pros and cons of a switch to Beijing, which was offering $8.5 million in development funds to replace support from Taiwan.
The Solomons Prime Minister’s office did not immediately respond to questions.
A switch in allegiance would be a prize for Beijing in its campaign to secure allies from Taiwan.
Taiwan vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior after El Salvador switched its allegiance to Beijing last year.