Britain extremely concerned by reports HK consulate worker held in China
By Noah Sin and Tom Westbrook
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Britain said on Tuesday it was "extremely concerned" by reports that a staff member at the consulate in its former colony of Hong Kong had been detained in mainland China.
Simon Cheng did not return to work on Aug. 9 after visiting the neighbouring mainland city of Shenzhen the previous day, Hong Kong news website HK01 reported, citing an interview with his girlfriend and family.
Cheng's family confirmed his disappearance in a Facebook post on Tuesday night, saying he travelled from Hong Kong to Shenzhen on the morning of Aug. 8 for a business trip.
"He travelled back to Hong Kong by high-speed rail on the evening of the same day, and sent messages to his girlfriend via WhatsApp and Wechat while he was about to pass customs at about 10 pm. We lost contact with him since then," the post said.
Hong Kong has been gripped by anti-government protests in recent weeks, with Beijing accusing Britain and other Western countries of meddling in its affairs.
Britain, the United States and other countries have urged China to respect the "one country, two systems" formula under which Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
"We are extremely concerned by reports that a member of our team has been detained returning to Hong Kong from Shenzhen," a representative of Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement released by the British embassy in Beijing.
"We are providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong," the representative said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the case. Hong Kong police did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Cheng's family said it had sought assistance from the British consulate on Aug. 9. but no further information has been obtained so far.
"We feel very helpless, and are worried sick about Simon. We hope that Simon can return to Hong Kong as soon as possible," they said.
Hong Kong's Immigration Department confirmed via email it had received a "request for assistance from subject's family member" and "had provided the family with proper advice and practical assistance".
The British consulate in Hong Kong referred Reuters to the Foreign Office statement.
(Additional reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Michael Perry and Darren Schuettler)