More than 200 people rallied outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on Friday evening to call on London to protect its former employee who claimed he was tortured while being detained in mainland China.
The rally, themed “We are all Simon”, was organised after Simon Cheng, 29, claimed in a statement on November 20 that mainland authorities had tortured him and pressed him for information on Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters while detaining him in Shenzhen in August.
Cheng, who was later released, said the consulate asked him to resign from his job in November, although sources told the Post he might have left on his own.
The protesters started gathering outside the consulate in Admiralty at around 7.30pm, with some waving British flags and others wearing paper masks that depict Cheng’s face.
The rally’s organiser, Britons in Hong Kong, urged the British government to investigate Cheng’s arrest and provide holders of the British National (Overseas) passport in Hong Kong the right to abode in Britain.
The group, which claimed to have around 500 members, called on the British government to “support and protect” Cheng like a British national.
“Cheng’s case is just the tip of the iceberg as he also stated the detainment and torture of Hongkongers by the Chinese authorities,” its statement read.
“We could all be Simon. One day we might all be abducted like Lee Bo and vanished from this world.”
Bo was among five Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared in 2015 and was later revealed to be in Chinese custody.
A masked representative of the group said she wanted Britain to pass legislation similar to the US’ Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which President Donald Trump signed on Thursday.
“Britain should also pass a similar bill. It has more nationals in Hong Kong than the US,” she said.
The democracy act allows Washington to suspend Hong Kong’s special trading status based on an annual assessment of whether the city retains a sufficient degree of autonomy under “one country, two systems” principle.
The US administration could also sanction people for acts perceived to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy, and direct officers not to deny visas to people subjected to “politically motivated” arrests or detentions.
In his Facebook statement, Cheng said he was intercepted by mainland Chinese officials on August 8 on his way back to Hong Kong from a day trip to Shenzhen, where he had gone to attend a business conference.
Cheng said he was brought back to Shenzhen, where he was blindfolded, shackled, beaten, and questioned until his release on August 24. Cheng has not disclosed his current whereabouts, but said he was seeking asylum.
Mainland authorities said Cheng was arrested and detained for soliciting prostitution, and a “confession tape” was also aired later on Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.
Among the protesters outside the consulate was a bank worker in her 30s who was not convinced with the mainland authorities’ claim that Cheng solicited sex.
“They want to smear anyone who is not pro-Beijing,” the bank worker, who did not want to be named, said.
A media worker, surnamed Lam, said he applied for renewal of his BN(O) passport because of the ongoing protests.
“If I have to leave Hong Kong, it may be of use,” he said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Simon Cheng: former British consulate worker detained in Shenzhen claims he was tortured by Chinese police
- China demands British authorities investigate after Hong Kong minister falls in confrontation with London protesters
- British consulate worker in Hong Kong held for more than two weeks in mainland China finally released, family says in Facebook statement
- Thousands gather for vigil in central Hong Kong to mourn death of student Chow Tsz-lok then disperse peacefully
- Court ruling sparing Hong Kong protester from jail for desecrating national flag will spark anger across China, former city leader Leung Chun-ying warns, while urging justice department to appeal