Beijing claims British consul employee arrested for soliciting prostitutes

Domestic News

On Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported that Simon Cheng Man-kit (郑文杰 Zhèng Wénjié), 28, an employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, was detained in China “for breaking the law.” Yesterday there was this news, not from the police but from the Twitter feed of the editor of the Global Times:

According to police, Simon Cheng, an employee of the British consulate in HK, was detained in Shenzhen for visiting prostitute. Police didn’t contact his family requested by Cheng. Police are willing to help reduce damage to his reputation, UK diplomats and media ruined him.

The story is quite clearly made up: for one thing, the above tweet is actually the source of “damage to his reputation.” Additionally, per this tweet from Michael Mo:

Getting caught because of prostitution at West Kowloon XRL Station? Either “mile fast club” service available on the train or a lame lie we are used to target political figures.

BTW, how can be it done in a 17-min ride? You must be joking, Peking!

Accusing political enemies of sexual improprieties, particularly visiting prostitutes, is an old Party tactic. See also Family of detained British consulate staffer refutes Chinese state media’s prostitution claim from Hong Kong Free Press, and this Twitter thread from scholar Mike Gow.

Cheng’s arrest will not reassure Hong Kongers about Beijing’s intentions. According to CNN:

Cheng’s detention is even more symbolic for where it may have taken place: Not at the primary border crossings of Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu, across from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, but in the heart of Hong Kong.

The high-speed train between Shenzhen and Hong Kong only passes through one immigration checkpoint: West Kowloon station, shared by both China and Hong Kong on the tip of the territory’s northern peninsula. At a demonstration outside the British consulate Wednesday, protesters said Cheng’s apparent arrest was likely one of many, and linked his detention to longstanding fears about the station’s immigration arrangement.