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.

Simon Cheng Man-kit. Photo: Facebook.

Hu Xijin, editor of the state-backed tabloid Global Times, tweeted on Thursday that Cheng had been detained in Shenzhen for visiting a prostitute.

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.

Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link. File Photo: GovHK.

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. 

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.

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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.