The family of a British consulate staff member in Hong Kong detained by mainland Chinese authorities has called for his immediate release.

Simon Cheng Man-kit, a 28-year-old trade and investment officer at the Scottish Development International section of the consulate, travelled to Shenzhen for a business event on August 8 via Hong Kong’s Lo Wu control point. He never returned home despite planning to come back the same day on the Express Rail Link. His last message to his Taiwanese girlfriend was that he was on the high-speed train, ready to pass through the border into Hong Kong.

Simon Cheng Man-kit. Photo: Facebook.

In a statement on Wednesday, Cheng’s family said they sought assistance from the Hong Kong Police and the Immigration Department on August 9 but were told they could only report a missing person case to the mainland Public Security Bureau in person.

“On 10 August, the Immigration Department, after getting in touch with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong, told us verbally that Simon has been administratively detained, but said that they could obtain no information on why, where and for how long he was to be detained,” their statement read.

“Till now, we have not received any Notice of Administrative Detention, supposed to be sent out within 24 hours of a person’s detention. We simply have never received any documentation confirming that Simon has been formally detained by the authorities,” it added.

Administrative detention in the mainland can last as long as 15 days.

Simon Cheng. Photo: Facebook.

The family said the UK Consulate General has expressed their utmost concern over the incident and said it would try to obtain further information. But as of Wednesday morning, no further information has been provided.

“[Our lawyers] have since then confirmed that Simon’s case is being handled by the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau, but has been unable to ascertain his whereabouts. He could not be found at Shenzhen Municipal Detention Centre, Baoan District Detention Centre, nor Nanshan District Detention Centre. Police stations in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and the Guangzhou Railway Public Security Bureau also have no information on his whereabouts,” they said.

“We feel very helpless, and are worried sick about Simon. We hope that Simon can return to Hong Kong as soon as possible,” they added.

A rally outside the UK consulate in Admiralty is set to take place on Wednesday 5pm, to urge representatives to help with Cheng’s release.

British Consulate in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Cheng is a Hong Kong permanent resident who had studied in Taiwan and the UK before returning to the city. It is unclear if he holds a diplomatic passport and what documents he used to enter China.

A spokesperson of the Immigration Department released a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying it was following up with the incident through the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong after receiving a request for assistance from Cheng’s family member: “[The department has] provided the family with proper advice and practical assistance,” it added.

The Hong Kong police classified the case as “missing person” after receiving a report from Cheng’s sister on August 9.

“Police have informed the informant about the progress and maintained close contact with relevant authorities in the [m]ainland. Active investigation by Regional Missing Persons Unit of Kowloon West is underway,” it said.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.