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China Says Employee of U.K.’s Hong Kong Consulate Has Been Freed

HONG KONG — An employee of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong who had been detained in mainland China for weeks has been released, the police said on Saturday.

The employee, Simon Cheng, disappeared on Aug. 8, during a business trip to Shenzhen, a mainland Chinese city bordering Hong Kong, according to his family and his girlfriend. The Chinese government said on Wednesday that Mr. Cheng, a 28-year-old trade officer, had been held under administrative detention, without specifying what, if anything, he was alleged to have done wrong.

In a post Saturday morning on the social platform Weibo, the Public Security Bureau of Shenzhen’s Luohu District said that Mr. Cheng had confessed to unlawful activities, and that he was released on Saturday after his 15-day detention ended. The statement did not say what the alleged unlawful activities were.

His family said in a post on Facebook on Saturday morning that Mr. Cheng had returned to Hong Kong.

“Simon and his family wish to have some time to rest and recover,” the post said. “We will explain more later.”

An hour or so after the message was posted, it disappeared from the family’s Facebook page. Mr. Cheng’s girlfriend and his family did not respond to requests for comment.

With Hong Kong stirred by protests that have prompted increasingly stern warnings from China’s central government, Mr. Cheng’s disappearance prompted fears that China had detained him as a warning to protesters, or to Britain, which has expressed support for the pro-democracy movement. It is unclear whether Mr. Cheng has joined in the protests.

On Thursday, a Chinese state-run newspaper reported that Mr. Cheng had been detained for soliciting prostitutes, an assertion that a friend dismissed as untrue. The government has made similar accusations in the past against political opponents and government critics it has held in China.


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