The Hong Kong consulate employee who vanished two weeks ago after attending a conference across the border in Shenzen was reportedly detained after visiting a prostitute, according to a report in a Chinese newspaper that was cited by Bloomberg.
Simon Cheng, the 28-year-old employee at the UK consulate in Hong Kong, mysteriously vanished after alerting his girlfriend via text that he was having issues re-entering Hong Kong following the conference. "Pray for me," was purportedly the last thing he sent her before going silent.
Cheng has already been in custody for two weeks. Amusingly, the consulate said nothing about Cheng's disappearance and detention until it was seemingly forced to issue a statement after Cheng's girlfriend went to the press. Beijing initially denied that Cheng was in custody, but on Wednesday, the foreign ministry admitted that Cheng was being held under a 15-day administrative detention over what it described as a "domestic issue."
Now, those 15 days are nearly up (Friday marks day 15), and police in Shenzen, who apprehended Cheng are offering more details about his detention.
Cheng "violated the 66 article of China’s law on administrative penalties for public security, which states that people who engage in prostitution or visit prostitutes shall be detained for no less than 10 days but no more than 15 days," the Global Times newspaper said. The paper also insisted that Cheng asked police not to notify his family about his detention. It's still not clear whether Cheng is a native of Hong Kong or if he was born and raised elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, BBG reported that the CPC has often used charges of visiting prostitutes as a catch-all to detain Hong Kongers traveling in mainland China.
Allegations of visiting prostitutes have later proved false in other instances where Hong Kong residents have been detained in China. A Hong Kong lawmaker apologized after accusing bookseller and Communist Party critic Lee Bo of visiting prostitutes, the South China Morning Post reported in 2016.
Separately, allegations of sexual impropriety have appeared alongside political corruption charges in the trials of senior Chinese politicians Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang and Sun Zhengcai.
Meanwhile, GT editor-in-chief Hu Xijin accused the western media of politicizing Cheng's case, claiming that the media have now "ruined" him, and that the understanding local party functionaries had been willing to try and limit damage to his reputation...
According to police, Simon Cheng, an employee of the British consulate in HK, was detained in Shenzhen for visiting 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.— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) August 22, 2019
...But this account, which makes little sense, was widely mocked in the replies to Hu's tweet.
Chinese police wanted to keep info secret to be able to blackmail him for the rest of his life but nasty UK diplomats put an end to the brilliant Chinese plan. Now undercover Chinese policewoman who played role of prostitute will be forced to take desk job.— Anil (@anilvohra69) August 22, 2019
Cheng's girlfriend and his family reportedly filed a missing persons report with the Hong Kong police after Cheng disappeared on his way back from a trade fair in Shenzen.
Looks like he's going to have some explaining to do when he finally gets back to Hong Kong (assuming he isn't held indefinitely on espionage charges like a former Canadian diplomat and a China-based Canadian businessman).