A U.K. consulate employee was reported missing in Hong Kong after he failed to return home from a trip to mainland China earlier this month, the local news site HK01 reported.
The employee Simon Cheng, 28, hasn’t contacted his family since Aug. 8 when he was due to return home after a meeting in the adjacent mainland city of Shenzhen, HK01 said Tuesday, citing to a woman described only as his girlfriend. They reported Cheng missing after consulting with U.K. consulate staff on Aug. 9, the report said.
Neither the U.K.’s consulate in the former British colony nor the Hong Kong police immediately responded to requests from comment Tuesday. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.
The report comes at a sensitive time for the U.K. and China, which has accused the British government of meddling in its domestic affairs by defending the rights of Hong Kong demonstrators to protest. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Aug. 9 to discuss “concerns about the situation in the city and the protests there,” the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said in an Aug. 9 statement that made no mention of Cheng’s case.
Concerns about the safety of foreign diplomatic staff operating in China have increased since Michael Kovrig, a global security analyst on leave from the Canadian foreign service, was detained in December and later accused of espionage. The move came amid a spat between Beijing and Ottawa over the arrest of a Chinese executive accused of sanctions violation in the U.S.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cheng successfully crossed the mainland border and made it to the high-speed railway station staffed by mainland agents on the Hong Kong side. Also unknown was what, if any, diplomatic protections were available to Cheng, whose LinkedIn profilelists his job as a trade and investment officer with Scottish Development International.
By Sheryl Tian Tong Lee