Ex-UK consulate staff alleges torture by Chinese secret police

Simon Cheng says his experience shows Hong Kong residents’ fears ‘not ungrounded’. (Reuters pic)

HONG KONG: A former employee of the UK’s Hong Kong consulate, who was detained in mainland China in August, said he was tortured by Chinese secret police and pressed for information on participants in the city’s protests.

Simon Cheng – a Hong Kong resident who worked for the consulate’s business-development team before he went missing for 15 days – made the allegations in a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday.

Cheng, 29, said he was handcuffed to a chair and forced into stress positions for hours.

Cheng’s story was reported moments earlier by several media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the BBC and the Daily Telegraph.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement about Cheng’s case that his office was “shocked and appalled by the mistreatment he suffered while in Chinese detention, which amounts to torture.”

“I have made clear we expect the Chinese authorities to investigate and hold those responsible to account,” Raab said.

The allegations could further strain relations between China and the UK, which have been repeatedly tested in recent months by London’s gestures of support for pro-democracy protesters in its former colony.

The UK government has said little about Cheng’s case since he was released from administrative detention for what state media said was a prostitution-related offense.

Cheng denied those allegations in his accounts.

Opposition lawmakers have argued that Cheng’s case illustrates the arbitrary nature of the legal system in China that has fueled recent protests in the city.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, referred questions on Cheng’s case to “relevant authorities” and noted that the former consulate worker had admitted wrongdoing.

Geng said the case involving a Chinese national was not a diplomatic matter for the UK.

In his statement, Cheng said he got a massage “for relaxation” purposes during a work trip to Shenzhen.

He said he also collected money from the parents of a mainland resident facing prosecution in Hong Kong for participating in protests.

Cheng denied what he said were “arbitrary accusations against me made by the authorities which were obtained through an illegal process, includes using torture, threats and coercion”.

“I have not fully recovered from the trauma of what happened to me and because of the greater risk of retaliation that I face, I will give no further comment on the case,” he said.

Cheng said his interrogators described him as a mastermind behind the protests, and one promised to keep him in jail indefinitely, causing him to contemplate suicide.

He said he reluctantly confessed to wrongdoing and shared details about people in his social media groups to cut short his detention.

Cheng said he had been warned by Chinese police that he would face retribution if he spoke out about his experiences.

He told the Wall Street Journal that his experience shows Hong Kong residents that their fears about China’s justice system “was not ungrounded.”

“I speak out now because the case is relevant to the public interest in knowing the flawed judicial process in mainland China,” Cheng said his Facebook post.