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UK consular worker detained in China released

ANI  |  Asia 

A United Kingdom consular worker who was detained in mainland China for 15 days, has returned to Hong Kong, said his family.

Simon Cheng, a 28-year-old trade and investment officer at the consulate, was reportedly detained by the government while he was returning from a trip to mainland China, CNN reported.

Cheng disappeared on August 8 when he went to attend an event in the border city of Shenzhen. He was supposed to come back on the same day, according to his girlfriend. However, he fell out of contact while attempting to pass through Chinese immigration and since has been detained in mainland China for unknown reasons.

Following reports in the local media about Cheng's disappearance, the UK raised the issue and expressed concern about the same. "We are extremely concerned by reports that a member of our team has been detained returning to Hong Kong from Shenzhen," a British Foreign Office spokesperson said Tuesday. "We are providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong."

"Simon has returned to Hong Kong; thanks to you everyone for your support!" read a post on a Facebook page set up following his disappearance and authorized by his family. "Simon and his family wish to have some time to rest and recover ... We will explain more later."

However, it remained unclear why Cheng was detained. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had said he would be held for 15 days under administrative detention for violating China's Security Administration Punishment Law.

However, on Thursday, local media reported that Cheng had been detained for "solicitation of prostitution."

His arrest came amid reports that Chinese immigration officials are regularly searching travellers' phones and bags for evidence whether they had taken part in anti-government protests.

Hong Kong has been witnessing protests since early June. The demonstrations were triggered by the now-suspended extradition bill which would allow suspects to be extradited to China to face trial.

Even though the bill has been suspended, the protests have continued and taken on a more pro-democracy outlook. Protesters have also demanded an inquiry into police authority and alleged brutality.

Several street clashes have taken place between protesters and the police ever since the beginning of the anti-government protests. At least 748 protesters have been arrested ever since the protests broke out in Hong Kong, police said on Friday.

China has decried the protests, with one Chinese official alleging that the demonstrations have "begun to show signs of terrorism".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, August 24 2019. 10:51 IST