Hong Kong Protesters to Rally for Detained U.K. Consulate Worker

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong protesters will rally for the release of a U.K. consulate worker whose family said was detained during a recent visit to mainland China, as near-daily demonstrations continue in the financial hub.

The “Save Simon Cheng” event is scheduled to take place Wednesday evening at the U.K. Consulate General in central Hong Kong. Cheng, 28, was revealed to be missing Tuesday after failing to return from an Aug. 8 meeting in the border city of Shenzhen and hasn’t contacted his family since.

Hong Kong Protesters to Rally for Detained U.K. Consulate Worker

There has been no public confirmation about the Cheng incident from China, which could potentially address it at a daily foreign ministry briefing Wednesday afternoon in Beijing. The U.K.’s foreign office said Tuesday that it was “extremely concerned” by the report and was seeking information from authorities in Hong Kong and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, which includes Shenzhen.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Immigration Department and a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong said they had no additional information on Cheng’s situation Wednesday. Hong Kong police said Tuesday that a missing person investigation was underway and that they were in close touch with Chinese authorities.

Diplomatic Concerns

Cheng’s disappearance fuels concerns about the safety of diplomatic staff in China, already heightened by the December detention of Michael Kovrig, a Hong Kong-based security analyst on leave from Canada’s foreign service. Kovrig has since been accused of espionage and remains in secret detention, entitled to only monthly visits from Canadian diplomats.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing Tuesday in Beijing that he wasn’t familiar with the reports on Cheng’s disappearance. The Chinese government has repeatedly said it respects international agreements protecting diplomats and that foreigners who abide by the country’s laws have no reason to fear detention.

Cheng is employed by the U.K. consulate and works for Scottish Development International, which encourages firms to do business with Scotland. He holds a British national overseas passport, the New York Times reported, entitling him to consular representation.

Immigration authorities told Cheng’s family that he was being held in administrative detention and offered no further details, according to his girlfriend, Annie Li. Individuals can be held for as long as 15 days under that process, or roughly until Friday.

The British government returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. Tensions between the two countries have simmered in recent weeks, after Beijing accused it of meddling in its former colony by defending the rights of anti-government protesters who have brought the city to a standstill since June.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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