This photo provided by Wilson Li shows Simon Cheng Man-kit, second from left, a resident of Hong Kong. China said Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, Cheng, a staffer at the British consulate in Hong Kong, has been given 15 days of administrative detention in the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen for violating regulations on public order. The case is stoking fears that Beijing is extending its judicial reach to semi-autonomous Hong Kong. (Wilson Li via AP)

Canada halts Hong Kong consulate staff travel after UK case

August 23, 2019 - 1:45 am

HONG KONG (AP) — The Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong said Friday local staff aren't allowed to travel outside the city including to mainland China, in a move that comes days after a British Consulate worker was detained there.

The Chinese government's announcement this week that the British Consulate employee has been detained in neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen has stoked tensions in Hong Kong, which has been gripped by months of antigovernment protests.

"At present, locally engaged staff will not undertake official business travel outside of Hong Kong," the Canadian Consulate said in a statement.

It didn't say whether the travel restriction was directly related to the detention of the British Consulate staffer, Simon Cheng Man-kit, who went missing two weeks ago after he went on a business trip to the mainland city from Hong Kong's high-speed cross-border rail terminal.

China said this week Cheng had been placed in administrative detention for 15 days for violating public order regulations. It did not elaborate.

Cheng had worked for the British Consulate since December 2017 as an international trade and investment officer for the Scottish government. He and other local staff at consulates and embassies support diplomats but don't have diplomatic passports themselves.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned nationalistic tabloid, reported Wednesday that Chen was detained for "soliciting prostitutes." Police in Shenzhen did not respond to requests for confirmation of the report.

China often uses public order charges against political targets and has sometimes used the charge of soliciting prostitution. Ou Shaokun, an anti-corruption activist, alleged in 2015 that he was framed by authorities in southern Hunan province who said they found him in a hotel room with a prostitute.

The Canadian government also updated its travel advice for China on Thursday to warn of stepped up border checks on phones.

"Increased screening of travelers' digital devices has been reported at border crossings between mainland China and Hong Kong," the advisory said.

There have been increasing reports that Chinese immigration officers are inspecting phones for photos related to the Hong Kong protests.

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