A former employee of the British Consulate in Hong Kong says he was detained and tortured by Chinese secret police trying to extract information about massive anti-government protests in the territory.
Simon Cheng said in an online statement and media interviews that he was hooded, beaten, deprived of sleep and chained to an X-shaped frame by plainclothes and uniformed agents as they sought information on activists involved in the protests and the role they believed Britain played in the demonstrations.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab summoned the Chinese ambassador in London to demand Beijing investigate.
"I summoned the Chinese Ambassador to express our outrage at the brutal and disgraceful treatment of Simon in violation of China's international obligations," Raab said in a statement. "I have made clear we expect the Chinese authorities to investigate and hold those responsible to account."
Chinese police in August announced Cheng's release after 15 days of administrative detention but gave no details of the reasons behind his detention.
China's foreign ministry responded angrily to the allegations and the summoning of the ambassador at a daily briefing on Wednesday.
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming will "by no means accept the so-called concerns or complaints raised by the British side," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
"The Chinese ambassador to the U.K. will lodge the complaints with the U.K. to express our strong opposition and indignation to the U.K.'s wrong words and deeds on Hong Kong in these days," Geng said.
Geng did not address Cheng's allegations directly, but cited a statement by Shenzhen police from August saying his lawful rights had been protected and that he had "admitted his offense completely," an apparent reference to a confession of soliciting prostitution that Cheng says was coerced. Cheng has strongly denied the charge.
Police in Shenzhen did not immediately respond to faxed questions about Cheng's allegations.
Cheng worked for the consulate as a trade and investment officer with a focus on attracting Chinese investment in Scotland. That required him to travel frequently to mainland China and he was detained at the border with Hong Kong after returning from a one-day business trip.
Hong Kong's nearly six months of pro-democracy protests began in opposition to proposed legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects in the semi-autonomous city to be extradited to face trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened. While Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has since withdrawn the bill, demonstrations have continued unabated as strong anti-government sentiment continues.
China says it doesn't allow suspects to be tortured or make false confessions, although both practices are believed to be common.
In his account on Facebook, Cheng wrote that he had been asked about the supposed British role in the protests, his own involvement in them and mainland Chinese who joined in demonstrations.
China has long accused "anti-China foreign forces" of fomenting the protests, which have grown increasingly violent, without providing direct evidence.
Cheng wrote that while being held he was shuttled between detention and interrogation centers while hooded and handcuffed. In addition to being shackled to the frame, he wrote he was ordered to assume stress positions for "countless hours," and was beaten with what felt like "sharpened batons" and poked in the knee if he faltered. He was also punished for dozing off during the sessions by being forced to sing the Chinese national anthem, he wrote.
"I was blindfolded and hooded during the whole torture and interrogations, I sweated a lot, and felt exhausted, dizzy and suffocated," Cheng wrote.
One interrogator speaking Hong Kong's native Cantonese dialect cursed him, saying, "How dare you work for the British to supervise Chinese," while another speaking in a northern Mandarin accent told him they were from China's secret intelligence service and that he had "no human rights in this place," Cheng wrote.
He said the interrogators expected him to confess that Britain had instigated the protests by donating money and materials, that he personally led that effort and paid the bail of mainland participants. At the detention center, he witnessed police questioning other young inmates who appeared to be Chinese mainland nationals being punished for participation in the protests.
Cheng said he refused but confessed to the minor offense of "soliciting prostitution" in order to avoid harsher treatment and a heavy sentence on national security charges. Some of the officers holding him said they could "abduct" him back to the mainland if he didn't "behave," he said.
Cheng no longer works at the consulate and has fled to a third country. Raab, the foreign minister, said the U.K. is working to support Cheng, including a possible move to Britain.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Wednesday that China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has emerged as the single most effective instrument of globalism and international development cooperation in the world.
The BRI's true potential lies in having created an awareness that the world would be better off by enabling each other to attain economic growth and development, he said.
Inaugurating a seminar, the International Conference on Belt and Road Initiative in the Changing Regional Dynamics, held by the think tank Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, here, Qureshi said that no other global initiative except the BRI can boast of involving more than 4 billion people living in the Asian, European and African regions, and bringing hope of shared prosperity, especially to the countries that are still struggling with their economies.
Sharing a study by the World Bank about the potential of the initiative after its completion, with the audience of the conference, the Pakistani foreign minister said that the BRI transport projects alone could reduce travel time along economic corridors by 12 percent, increase trade by up to 9.7 percent, income by up to 3.4 percent, thus lifting millions of people from extreme poverty.
"The BRI has a central role to play in converting this region into one rich in opportunities for economic growth and development. Who would appreciate this more than Pakistan, which is hosting a flagship arm of the BRI, called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)," Qureshi said.
Talking about his government's resolve to complete CPEC projects on priority basis, Qureshi said that a CPEC authority has been established to accelerate the on-going projects, while many energy and infrastructure projects of CPEC are already injecting dynamism into the process of Pakistan's economic development after their completion.
After completion of the first phase of CPEC, which mainly focused on infrastructure and electricity projects, Pakistan is now gearing up for the second phase of the multibillion-dollar project. Qureshi noted that the second phase will mainly focus on industrialization and socio-economic development for which nine special economic zones will be set up to focus on rapid industrialization.
Talking about Pakistan-China relations, the foreign minister said that all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with China occupies an important place in Pakistan's foreign policy priorities, adding that his country extends its full support to the BRI which it believes is an effective implementation mechanism for creating a more balanced, multipolar, inclusive, and multilateral architecture for the region and the rest of the world.
The BRI would link the nations of Eurasia like never before, he said.
Noting that the BRI, CPEC, and other such connectivity initiatives are being recognized as potent voices for globalism, Qureshi said that at the time when multilateralism is coming under duress, the BRI philosophy tells us that globalism is still relevant and the best hope for humanity.
During the two-day conference from Wednesday to Thursday, scholars and experts from China and Pakistan will discuss the future trajectory of China-Pakistan relations, CPEC and changing regional dynamics.
A fire broke out in the underground parking area of Japan's trade ministry in central Tokyo on Wednesday, but local police and firefighters said that no injuries were reported as a result.
The fire broke out at around 10 a.m. local time in garbage loaded on a truck in the ministry building's second-level basement, police and firefighters said, but was quickly extinguished.
Following an emergency call, about 10 fire engines were deployed to the scene in the Kasumigaseki district of central Tokyo, a hub of government ministries and agencies.
Investigations into the cause of the blaze are ongoing, local police and fire fighters said.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu on Wednesday summoned William Klein, acting charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in China, to lodge stern representations and strong protest against U.S. Senate's passing of the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.
"We strongly urge the U.S. side to immediately take effective measures to prevent this act from becoming law, immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's other internal affairs. Otherwise, China will have to take strong countermeasures and the U.S. side must face all the consequences," Ma said.
Twenty-two farmers were arrested in northern India on Wednesday for burning stubbles and causing some of the worst air pollution in the country, a government official said.
Those arrested in Uttar Pradesh state's Pilibhit district face charges of disobeying a ban on stubble burning and making the atmosphere noxious, said state government spokesman Awanish Awasthi.
India's Supreme court last week ordered a fine of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,420) for those polluting air.
Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires. The smoke mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust.
The air quality index in New Delhi exceeded 500, about 10 times the recommended maximum, early this month, but strong winds bought the level down to 250 this week.
On Tuesday, several opposition lawmakers in India's Parliament demanded that that the government give incentives to farmers and provide machines to remove farm stubble to stop the practice of burning fields before planting new crops.
Opposition lawmakers also demanded that coal-based power plants switch over to less polluting natural gas.
Pollution controls have been imposed in the Indian capital region, home to 48 million people, such as banning some construction to avoid dust, reducing traffic and prohibiting the use of diesel generators. But the steps have had little effect because state governments have failed to cooperate in tackling pollution.
Data released last year by the World Health Organization showed India had 10 of the world's 20 most polluted cities.