Aug. 21 (UPI) -- China has detained a British consulate employee who has been missing for almost two weeks, the country's foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Simon Cheng, 28, who works as a trade and investment officer at the British consulate in Hong Kong, was serving a 15-day administrative detention for violating "public security management regulations," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, confirming widespread speculation that Cheng had been arrested.
"I also want to stress that this worker is a Hong Kong citizen -- not a British citizen -- and he is Chinese," Geng said. "And this is entirely an internal matter of China."
On Tuesday, when asked by reporters about Cheng, Geng replied, "I'm not aware of what you said."
China's confirmation comes a day after Britain voiced concern for Cheng's whereabouts and his family issued a statement on Facebook detailing his disappearance.
According to the Facebook post, Cheng has been missing since Aug. 8 when he traveled from Hong Kong to the border city of Shenzhen in mainland China for a one-day business trip.
He was last heard from in a text message he sent to his 27-year-old Taiwanese girlfriend, Annie Li, stating he was about to pass through customs on returning to Hong Kong.
"We lost contact with him since then," the family said.
Li told CNN that Cheng messaged her from a high-speed train from Shenzhen and was about to pass through border customs.
"Simon has signed a contract with the British government," she said. "If he hadn't been given that assignment, he wouldn't have needed to go to Shenzhen. Britain must take the responsibility in rescuing Simon."
His family said lawyers confirmed that his case was being handled by the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau.
"We feel very helpless and we are worried sick about Simon," his family said. "We hope that Simon can return to Hong Kong as soon as possible."
Confirmation of Cheng's arrest comes as mass and sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong stretch into their 12th week, attracting widespread attention as well as international condemnation against China for its repeated crackdowns on demonstrators.