Hong Kong

China Escalates Hong Kong Conflict By Detaining Consulate Staffer

Simon Cheng Man-kit, a staffer at the British Consulate in Hong Kong, hasn't returned from a trip he took to mainland China nearly two weeks ago.


Simon Cheng Man-kit, a 28-year-old staffer at the British Consulate in Hong Kong, hasn't returned from an August 8 trip to mainland China. Many fear Cheng's disappearance is a harbinger of hostile actions against people suspected of supporting the Hong Kong protests.

On August 8, Cheng left Hong Kong for a business conference in Shenzhen, China. According to his girlfriend, Annie Li, Cheng had planned to come home that same day via the high-speed rail that connects the two cities. Li and Cheng's family reported him missing on August 9. 

Under Chinese law, authorities can legally detain people for up to 15 days without providing them access to legal representation or a court hearing. Families are supposed to be notified, but Cheng's family says they have heard nothing and do not know Cheng's whereabouts.

Yesterday afternoon, The New York Times reported that a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Cheng is "being held under a 15-day administrative detention, without citing specifics of his alleged wrongdoing."

Cheng is a low-level staffer in the Scottish Development International wing of the British consulate. He reportedly holds a British National (Overseas), or BN(O), passport—the type held by Hong Kong residents before 1997, when Hong Kong was under British rule. Holders of BN(O) passports occupy murky legal territory; they're British nationals, but not British citizens (some of them are Chinese nationals as well), but the main benefit is that BN(O) holders are entitled to British consular assistance abroad. It's unclear whether he entered China on a BN(O) or a home return permit, which allows visa-free visits to China at a much cheaper cost, but also complicates your status and means you're effectively treated as a Chinese citizen. Other journalists have noted that the British government erred in not giving Cheng diplomatic protection, considering the rising tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police are handling Cheng's disappearance as a missing person case. It's unclear why Cheng was targeted; there's no indication that he has been participating in the anti-extradition treaty, pro-democracy protests that have been shaking Hong Kong for nearly three months. Jack Hazlewood, an activist who has lived in Hong Kong most of his life, tells Reason Cheng's detention is intended to scare residents into submission. "They're very much holding him to make an example of him and strike fear into pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong."

"There's nothing he's done specifically except put up a Facebook profile frame in support of a pro-democracy march, which is of course completely legal in Hong Kong," notes Hazlewood.

The extradition treaty, which on June 9 sparked protests, would allow the extradition of suspected criminals to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Hong Kong is technically part of China but enjoys significant autonomy under the "one country, two systems" policy. Though the extradition treaty was subsequently suspended, many Hongkongers want it to be fully pulled. They're also calling for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign, given her interest in ceding more political power to mainland China.

More generally, the protests have symbolized Hongkongers' interest in protecting their democracy and freedom from steadily-increasing Chinese intrusion.

Since the news of Cheng's disappearance became public, protesters and concerned citizens in Hong Kong have started putting up "missing" posters—a necessary caution to dissident Hongkongers who might want to travel to Shenzhen or other parts of mainland China.

NEXT: Americans Aren't Saving Nearly Enough

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  1. If Trump hadn’t tweeted out his incendiary hateful racist rhetoric about the Hong Kong situation, China wouldn’t have felt the need to escalate the conflict so we all know whose fault this is.

    (I haven’t actually checked, but I’m pretty sure if you google it, you’ll find several of the usual suspects making this exact argument.)

    1. “you’ll find several of the usual suspects making this exact argument.”

      You’ll also find usual subjects desperate to make the story about the travails of Donald Trump instead of Simon Cheng.

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  2. And people actually wonder why we do not trust the Red Chinese?

    More incredibly, we actually have Progtards who want the US to emulate their system. Absolute lunacy.

    1. And incredibly, there were many Hong Kong citizens that were so happy the Brits were leaving!

  3. The progs running for President would love to have all this power. They could take over whole parts of the economy and destroy the 1st and 2ed amendment in one fell swoop. And cameras every where and s social score for right think.

    1. +1 Tom Friedman “I wish we could be the Chinese for a day”.

  4. China Escalates Hong Kong Conflict By Detaining Consulate Staffer

    Yeah, and what the hell is England going to do about it? Does Canada still have the Huawei CEO? Maybe they can do a POW swap.

    1. Not sure that would be an even trade, although I have a feeling this might get the UK public more fired up about Hong Kong…

      1. ” I have a feeling this might get the UK public more fired up about Hong Kong…”

        Like giving BN(O) passport holders the right of abode in the UK? haha. That is derisive laughter, not the stately home architectural feature which hinders grazing animals but leaves lines of sight unimpeded.

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  6. The Soviet Union collapsed when the army decided they would not murder their neighbors.
    It’s possible that China is now civilized enough to collapse.

    1. The main problem with that assessment is that Russia and China are not the same place and its also not why the USSR collapsed anyway.

    2. Hey Rube! ever been to Grozny? It’s a part of Russia that was leveled by the army. That happened a few months after army tanks fired on and destroyed the Parliament building in Moscow.

    3. This is why the Party is staging the PAP (Peoples Armed Police – ie. internal state security forces) in Shenzen, rather than trusting the 5000+ strong Honk Kong garrison of the PLA.

      And, should your internet search included pictures, you will see a large number of trucks. Most of which will go in empty, but come out full.

      1. I’m expecting a lot of the protesters, but especially their leaders, to pay for their sins a piece at a time. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/china-forcefully-harvests-organs-detainees-tribunal-concludes-n1018646

  7. Wasn’t the “one country–two systems” arrangement, and the general protection of personal freedoms for Hong Kongers (for at least 50 years), a strict condition of the treaty that handed Hong Kong over to the Chinese in 1997? If so, the U.K. can at least have the public relations advantage of pointing out that, for them, China’s adherence to those promises is not their “internal affair”, but rather a solemn treaty commitment, and any failure to observe them would show that China’s word cannot be trusted. Yet I haven’t heard the U.K. making this point.

  8. Don’t know about you guys, but if I was a Chinese guy working at the British Consulate I wouldn’t be travelling outside of Hong Kong right now. Seems kinda like travelling to North Korea, committing a petty crime, ending up in a prison camp, and wondering why you’re there.

  9. 15 days from 8/8 is tomorrow

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