Chinese state media deny torture of ex-U.K. consulate staff member

China’s ruling Communist Party’s newspaper published surveillance videos Thursday which it said prove the guilt and voluntary confession of a former U.K. consulate employee in Hong Kong who was detained for 15 days on a charge of soliciting prostitution.

The People’s Daily report follows a detailed online account Wednesday from the staffer, Simon Cheng, who says he was tortured, questioned about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and forced to confess during his detention in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

“There was no forced confession through torture,” the People’s Daily said.

It said the Shenzhen police released the videos, which show Cheng visiting what appears to be a massage salon and allegedly speaking to interrogators. The videos do not offer concrete evidence that Cheng solicited prostitution, nor do they prove that he was not tortured.

Cheng has acknowledged that he got a massage on his business trip. In his statement on Facebook he wrote that he allowed police to record him confessing to the charge because they suggested he could be handed harsher sentences related to national security if he didn’t cooperate.

An activist holds an illustration of Cheng during a gathering outside the British Consulate-General building in Hong Kong on Aug. 21. (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

China frequently uses taped confessions to back up its accusations against political opponents, sometimes broadcasting them on state television. The subjects, especially non-Chinese, usually claim at the first opportunity that the confessions were coerced through torture and threats to their safety or that of their family members.

Cheng described in his statement being hooded, beaten, deprived of sleep and chained to an X-shaped frame. The police were particularly interested in extracting statements about the U.K.’s alleged instigation of the Hong Kong protests, he said, and he constantly felt dizzy because they confiscated his glasses.

The Shenzhen police have not responded to faxed requests for comment.

In the videos published by the People’s Daily, Cheng is shown without his glasses and saying that he was “embarrassed” by his “illegal behaviour.”

Amnesty International’s China researcher Patrick Poon said on Wednesday that Cheng’s allegations of torture are “in-line with the endemic torture and other ill-treatment in detention we have repeatedly documented in mainland China.”

Poon said Cheng “is yet another victim of arbitrary detention in China, where activists can be held incommunicado for long periods of time.” He urged China to fully investigate Cheng’s claim and ensure “any police found responsible for torture or other ill-treatment are held to account.”

The U.K.’s foreign minister Dominic Raab summoned the Chinese ambassador in London to demand Beijing investigate Cheng’s treatment.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, has been roiled by nearly six months of mass demonstrations sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trial.

 

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