British worker 'tortured' in China should tell Chinese officials, Hong Kong minister says

Deborah Haynes, foreign affairs editor

A British consulate worker who claims he was tortured in Chinese detention should report the allegations to China, Hong Kong's justice minister has said.

Simon Cheng, who worked for the UK government in the former British territory, was arrested in August while returning from a trip to the mainland.

The Hong Kong citizen has alleged that secret police beat him, deprived him of sleep, forced him into stress positions and shackled him.

He accused them of trying to force him to give information about activists leading pro-democracy protests.

Justice minister Teresa Cheng, who is not related to the consulate worker, was asked about the case as she spoke to journalists for the first time since she was injured in London last week after being "besieged" by a group protesting against the Hong Kong government.

The justice minister appeared to draw parallels with her experience when asked whether she had raised Mr Cheng's allegations with Beijing.

"I have reported my incident to the police as soon as that happened and I would encourage him to do the same with the relevant authorities in the mainland," she said.

Asked if she was confident such a complaint could be launched, given Mr Cheng is accusing the Chinese police of torture, the minister said: "There is usually an avenue by which these matters can be aired."

Hong Kong might also be about to provide a route, but Ms Cheng said she had not yet received any information on the abuse allegations.

"I am sure when the matter is brought to my attention I will be looking at it and seeing what can be done in so far as it is within the laws of Hong Kong and the jurisdiction of Hong Kong," she said.

Pressed on what she personally thought about the allegations of abuse that he has made, she would not be drawn.

"There are many things that are often reported and sometimes it is extremely important to gather the whole facts, the veracity of it before any view is to be formed," she said.

"I prefer to hold my opinion until I have the opportunity to collect and analyse whatever information or evidence that I have."

Britain's foreign secretary said the treatment Mr Cheng allegedly suffered amounted to torture and summoned the Chinese ambassador to discuss the case.

Mr Cheng was released in August after 15 days of detention in mainland China.

Authorities claimed he was detained for soliciting prostitutes , something China often uses against political targets.

Mr Cheng is a trade and investment officer in the Scottish Development International government agency, inside Britain's consulate in Hong Kong.

He failed to return to work on 8 August after a business trip to Shenzhen, which links Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland.

The justice secretary also revealed details about how she dislocated and fractured her left wrist after allegedly being pushed to the floor by protesters when she tried to attend a meeting in London last week.

"I was pushed to the ground after being besieged on my way to the venue," she said, describing the attack as being an "extension of Hong Kong's protests".