A former British consulate employee in Hong Kong claims he was subjected to torture at the hands of mainland China’s secret police to get information on activists involved with the current anti-government protests.

What is known is that Simon Cheng was detained for 15 days in August after the consulate sent him to Shenzhen on the mainland for a business conference. He tried to return the same day by train but was detained at the mainland checkpoint in the Kowloon terminal and sent back to Shenzhen. He was released after he signed a confession that he had used the services of a prostitute. 

Cheng’s current location is unknown, but he is currently seeking asylum for himself and his fiancée and looking for new employment.  He said he got little support from the consulate and that factored in his decision to leave Hong Kong.

In a long Facebook post Wednesday, Cheng said when he arrived in Shenzhen, he met the parents of a protester to pick up money to take back to Hong Kong. Then he went for a massage “for relaxation after work hours.” He also detailed what he claims happened to him during his 15-day detention:

  • He was moved to different locations, kept blindfolded and shackled, beaten during questioning and kept in solitary confinement most of the time.
  • He was strapped into a torture chair that hindered any movement, deprived of sleep, and accused of being a British spy.
  • Cheng said, “I was interrogated for days and days, hours after hours.” And in one incident he claimed he was grabbed by the hair as his interrogators thought they could unlock his cell phone with facial recognition.
  • He continued, “I was hung on a steep X-Cross doing a spread-eagled pose for hours after hours. I was forced to keep my hands up, so blood cannot be pumped up my arms. It felt extremely painful.”
  • Finally, he said, “When the secret police took me out of the detention center, I was handcuffed, shackled, blindfolded and hooded. I was not allowed to wear glasses from the very beginning, so I kept feeling dizzy and suffocated.”

As is normal for China, under the Communist Party regime, they did not deny or admit to any of Cheng’s comments but focused on what they claim was his crime of soliciting prostitution as the reason for his detention.

The incident did cause a war of words between British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chinese foreign affairs ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. Cheng had asked the U.K. for help when it appeared that the Hong Kong consulate was not going to provide him any support.

Raab lambasted the Chinese ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, about Cheng's treatment but Shuang insisted that this was not a diplomatic matter and rejected all remarks made by the British.

Mainland authorities have maintained that Cheng broke the law while in Shenzhen by soliciting prostitution and was detained for that. Cheng did not respond to a question posed by the BBC if he had paid for sex.

Activists in Hong Kong have been rallying in support of British consulate employee Simon Cheng, who has been detained by mainland authorities Activists in Hong Kong have been rallying in support of British consulate employee Simon Cheng, who has been detained by mainland authorities Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE