Canada halts Hong Kong consulate staff travel

Canada halts Hong Kong consulate staff travel
HONG KONG -- Accountants in Hong Kong marched Friday in support of the pro-democracy movement, while the Canadian Consulate banned its staff from leaving the city on official business after a British Consulate employee was detained in mainland China.

The head of the cabin crew union for Hong Kong airline Cathay Dragon said she had been fired in retaliation for supporting the movement, adding to the chill in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory where protesters have been rallying for more than two months.

Demonstrators were planning to form 40 kilometres (25 miles) of human chains Friday night to show their resolve. They said the "Hong Kong Way" was inspired by the "Baltic Way," when people in the Baltic states joined hands 30 years ago in a protest against Soviet control.

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

During a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China respects Canada s decision, but countered it with a Confucius quote: "A gentleman is open and poised; a petty man is unhappy and worried."

Geng elaborated that those who are "above board" will have their rights guaranteed in China, while people with "an ulterior motive to engage in illegal activities" may have to be "extremely cautious."

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.

China said this week that Cheng is a Hong Kong resident who had been placed in administrative detention for 15 days for violating public order regulations. It did not elaborate.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned nationalistic tabloid, reported Thursday 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 U.K. s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement that they are still urgently seeking further information about Cheng s case.

"Neither we nor Simon s family have been able to speak to him since detention," the office said. "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."

Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman, said Friday that Cheng s case is merely a public security issue and not a "diplomatic matter."

A few thousand accountants gathered in a city square around noon and marched to government headquarters, becoming the latest profession to back the movement publicly following rallies by lawyers, teachers and medical workers.

One participant, Sarah Wong, said accountants are usually quiet because they are focused on getting the numbers right, but they cannot remain silent anymore.

Kenneth Leung, a lawmaker who represents the accounting industry, said that the now-suspended extradition bill that sparked the protests would have affected accountants, because many of them have clients in mainland China and travel there.

The legislation would have allowed suspects to be extradited to the mainland to face trial.

"The profession as a whole needs to come out to express their concerns and grievances," he said.
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