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Ex-U.K. Consulate Worker Claims Chinese Secret Police Tortured Him for Info on Hong Kong Protests

Police officers stand next to a burning barricade during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China, October 20, 2019. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

A former employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong was tortured by Chinese secret police who suspected the city’s recent pro-democracy uprising was partially orchestrated by the British, the worker told Wall Street Journal in several interviews.

Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen who was a member of the British consulate’s business-development team, was on his way back to the city from a trip to mainland China when he was detained near the border crossing on August 8.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the treatment of Cheng by Chinese authorities “amounts to torture.”

“I have made clear we expect the Chinese authorities to investigate and hold those responsible to account,” Raab told the Journal, saying he had summoned the Chinese ambassador to Britain “to express our outrage.”

Cheng said Chinese police beat him, chained him spread-eagled, and deprived him of sleep during a period of four days when he was interrogated. He was forced to stand or sit perfectly still, and if he nodded off or moved in any way his interrogators compelled him to sing the Chinese national anthem. One questioner started threatening to detain him in prison forever.

“I started to think about suicide,” Cheng said. Police forced him to reveal passwords for social media groups used by protesters and tried to get Cheng to confess that British officials incited the demonstrations. Cheng denied the charges but was forced to confess to a charge of soliciting prostitution, which he claims was false.

While Cheng’s account was not independently verifiable, the details were similar to those of other people detained by China and who recounted their experiences to human-rights groups.

The protests in Hong Kong began in June after the city’s pro-Beijing government introduced legislation that would have allowed the extradition of Hong Kongers to mainland China, a move critics described as a significant blow to Hong Kong’s independence.

“For Hong Kongers,” Cheng said regarding the demonstrations, “it shows their fear was not ungrounded.”

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