Yet another foreign citizen has been detained by the Chinese government. On August 8th, Simon Cheng Man-kit seemingly disappeared on a business trip to Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong in Guangdong.
Cheng is a permanent resident of Hong Kong and a staff member for the British Consulate General in Hong Kong. He is a trade and investment officer for Scottish Development International, which works to promote trade between Scotland and other nations.
Chen was on what was supposed to be a day long business trip to China. However, when attempting to return to Hong Kong he was detained. His girlfriend, a Taiwanese citizen with the surname Li, reported that she believed he was detained in the West Kowloon Terminus Station. This station is split between multiple levels that follow different laws and restriction, with certain section adhering to CCP law, while others apply laws from Hong Kong.
The story was first reported by HK01. In their intital reporting they showed pictures of text messages sent between Cheng and Li that show Cheng’s anxiety about passing through Chinese security. He even asks Li to “pray for me,” in one message. It seems his fears were well founded as that was the last Li, or anyone outside of China, has heard from him. Chinese authorities claimed to HK01 that no arrests had been made a Kowloon, whether this is true or not, it is now clear that Cheng was detained by CCP authorities, whether there or elsewhere.
It is still unclear if Cheng was traveling on a diplomatic passport, if he even has one, though he does routinely travel to China for business according to his girlfriend. She also stated that he was traveling on his ‘mainland travel permit’. In any case, it appears that he was detained under the murky moniker of administrative detention. This is a practice in China where the government may detain anyone without evidence orn charges that are not a par with an illegal offence, what we in the civilized world would call a violation of habeas corpus. It must be noted that even Cheng’s lawyer has not seen him yet. Though this is not for lack of trying, he reportedly visited 3 detention centers to look for Cheng to no avail.
Administrative detention can last for up to 15 days in China, if you are keeping track today, Friday, would be Cheng’s 15th day in China. This period is often used to look for, or invent from whole cloth, charges against the detainee. This is likely why, yesterday, the CCP accused Cheng of soliciting prostitution. Like most claims from the CCP, this accusation came with absolutely no evidence. Cheng’s family has flatly refuted this claim and many on social media are taking the Chinese government to task for its absurd charges. It seems there is no way that Cheng would have time to visit a sex worker during a daylong business trip. Not to mention being detained after his train ride would hint that it all happened on the less than 20-minute train ride.
The Chinese government also said that it failed to notify Cheng’s family because Cheng himself asked them not to, in order to avoid embarrassment. The CCP also neglected to inform the family of Simon’s detention which is supposed to be done within 24 hours of detention. Though they did ‘graciously’ invite the Cheng’s family to China to learn about the details themselves. Obviously if that happened there would likely be many more members of Simon Cheng’s family in jail. This is a common tactic from the CCP. This was compounded by officials also making statements disparaging those asking for more information. Geng Shuang, Foreign Ministry Spokes person for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated “This person is not a British Citizen. He is a Hong Kong citizen, so he is a Chinese citizen and this is a purely Chinese internal affair.” This a perfect encapsulation of a Chinese government statement. Anything inside of China is no one’s business, but then they turn around and make comments on everything any other nation does that even slightly irks them, see F-16s being sold to Taiwan and a million other examples.
Li had a different take, chastising the British government to step up for her boyfriend. “Simon has signed a contract with the British government.” she stated, “If he hadn’t been given that assignment, he wouldn’t have needed to go to Shenzhen. Britain must take the responsibility in rescuing Simon.” For their part the Brits and their counterparts in Hong Kong have put out statements, though that seems to be about all they have done. “We are extremely concerned by reports that a member of our team has been detained returning to Hong Kong from Shenzhen,” the British Consulate General in Hong Kong said. The General continued “We are providing support to his family and seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong province and Hong Kong.” Though it remains unclear what support the family has been given.
Friday will mark day 15 and we will see what will happen with Simon Cheng. It is unlikely that we will learn much of anything, the CCP rarely gives details of the people it kidnaps. Hopefully support for Cheng will grow internationally, rallies have already been planned to call for his release in Hong Kong. This is also concerning as it is a sign of a broader overarching pattern in China.
There is speculation that this arrest has something to do with the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Whether or not this is the case, the fact remains that China has been detaining people on trumped up, or wholly without, charges. One only needs to look at Li Mingche, Meng Hongwei, and the laundry list of people the CCP government has detained or disappeared, many of which are still in prison, or their whereabouts remain unknown, to this day. The international community needs to get serious about protecting human rights and dealing with China more generally. If they do not, these gross miscarriages of justice will continue and their calls for human rights will ring increasingly hollow.