A Hong Kong citizen working for the British consulate, who has not been heard from for two weeks, was detained in China for “solicitation of prostitution,” China’s state-run tabloid Global Times reported on Thursday.
Simon Cheng, 28, was detained in the border city of Shenzhen, the report said.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Wednesday that Cheng had been detained by police for 15 days under a sweeping security law, but did not specify a reason – the law cited for his detention applies to numerous broad offenses.
Police in Shenzhen’s Luohu district said Cheng had violated article 66 of the law on administrative penalties for public security, according to Global Times.
The law stipulates that people who engage in prostitution or visit prostitutes shall be detained for no less than 10 days but no more than 15 days, and may also be fined 5,000 yuan ($705).
Cheng has not been heard from since August 8, when he told his girlfriend he had boarded a high-speed train, traveling from the Chinese city of Shenzhen to Hong Kong. “Pray for me,” he texted her as he approached Chinese immigration, according to screenshots seen by CNN.
The train between the two cities 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.
Annie Li, Cheng’s girlfriend, declined to comment on the charges Thursday.
Responding to the new details on Cheng’s detention, a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told CNN: “We continue to urgently seek further information about Simon’s case. Neither we nor Simon’s family have been able to speak to him since his detention.
“That is our priority and we continue to raise Simon’s case repeatedly in China, Hong Kong and London and have sought to make contact with Simon himself,” the foreign office spokesperson added.
Friends of Cheng fear his detention could have been linked to recent pro-democracy protests, noting that he had shared pro-democracy images on social media and had voiced support for the city’s ongoing protest movement.
His detention comes amid reports Chinese immigration officials are regularly searching travelers’ phones and bags as they cross the border for evidence they have taken part in protests.
CNN has reached out to Shenzhen police and is awaiting comment.
Global Times, which is published in both Chinese and English, is known for its nationalistic coverage. Like all state media outlets in China, it operates within a heavily censored environment that is tightly controlled by Communist authorities.
CNN’s James Griffiths contributed to this report.