Shadow Parliament Held by ‘Wanted’ Activist Turns China Pale

In the city of London, Cheng speaks out on the Chinese government’s repression against Uyghur Muslims.


About Simon Cheng:
He was born in Hong Kong in 1990. Cheng began working for the British consulate in Hong Kong in 2017, but when he visited mainland China in August 2019, he was detained and tortured by the Chinese secret police for over 15 days. After being released, he moved to Britain and was granted asylum by the U.K. government in June. Cheng is a pro-democracy activist and a practitioner of the Christian faith.

Simon Cheng, who has been serving as a staff member of the British consulate in Hong Kong since 2017, was asked by the consulate to collect information on the movement of Hong Kong protests and subsequently interacted with protesters. Later on, when he visited mainland China in August 2019, Cheng was detained and tortured by the secret police for 15 days. After his release, Cheng fled to the U.K. and was granted asylum in June of this year. Cheng is now one of the “wanted” activists by the Hong Kong government.

The young activist who partakes in the democratization movement from the U.K. shared his thoughts on being tortured and discussed the future of democratization.

――It has been widely reported that you were detained and tortured by Chinese secret police.

Cheng: During detention, I was forced to go back and forth between jail and the interrogation center. At that center, I was tortured and coerced to confess to crimes which I didn’t commit.

To bring me there, secret policemen laid me on the backseat of a van. I was shackled, hooded and blindfolded at that time.


15 Days of Restraint, Taunt and Beating

Cheng: They brought me to a quiet room and hung me on a wall. I was not sure, but it might have been a wooden board or something like that. I told them I would confess to whatever they wanted, and to not torture me. But they only said, “You are such a traitor!”

It was hard to breathe because I was still hooded. I was also hung on a wall and had to keep raising my hands for countless hours. I suffered severe pain, but if I shuffled, they would beat me. This situation lasted almost all day long.

Sometimes, they ordered me to do squats or to stand still. If I fell asleep, they punched me and ordered me to sing a Chinese national anthem. Besides, I couldn’t say anything without permission. They treated me as less than a human.

Interrogators forced me to confess crimes that I didn’t commit by all means. For instance, they wanted me to confess that I joined the protest and committed violence, or that I financially supported the protesters as a substitute for the U.K government. If I admitted to these crimes, I would be charged with subversion or even treason. I was working at the UK’s Hong Kong consulate, so it could be more serious. I would be sentenced to life imprisonment or even capital punishment.

At that time, my family and girlfriend came to my mind, and I made up my mind to reject any confession.

I was not sure if my mentality would be tough enough to endure tortures. However, I had faith. Even though I couldn’t communicate with others, I could talk with God. I tried to talk with myself, “God please save me, please teach me what to do.” This made me stronger.


Witnessing a Large Group of Protesters Detained in Mainland China

――You saw Hong Kong protesters being interrogated while you were detained.

Cheng: I clearly remember what happened. I think it was the second week. I was delivered to a different interrogation center. When I entered, I smelled new construction and heard the sounds of construction outside. I’m sure it was quite a new building.

I saw Chinese words on the wall that said, “Collective Investigation Center.”

In that building, there was a bunch of interrogation rooms. In front of me, there were some transparent rooms where I saw about 10 people being separately interrogated.

After seeing that scene, I was also interrogated. When I was about to go back to jail, one girl passed by me. She looked like 15 or 16 years old. The secret police who monitored me said, “That girl is a protester from Hong Kong. We are detaining her here.” The police asked me, “Do you know her?” I said no, and then he nodded and brought me back to jail.

Another secret police told me that a large group of protesters had been detained in mainland China.

These pieces of evidence show that by August of last year, far before a national-security law was imposed, the Chinese government already detained Hong Kong protesters in mainland China.


China Threatens U.K. Following Establishment of ‘Shadow Parliament’

――You mentioned a plan to establish a parliament where overseas Hong Kong people could assemble.

Cheng: It is an unofficial civic group to reflect the true voice of Hong Kong people. We can describe it as a “shadow parliament.”

We decided to launch this organization on July 1st when China imposed a national security law, and people in Hong Kong lost their hope for democratization. We wanted to show that we are not alone, and light new light in the hearts of those people.

Firstly, we need to build up a solid network of overseas Hong Kong people. This would be the base of our organization.

Then, we will discuss the question of “What is true democracy?” and learn that culture. In Hong Kong, we are not allowed a free and fair election. We cannot call this a democracy. Therefore, we ourselves should learn true democracy first.

This discussion will be controversial. Some people would call for independence, and some will disagree with it. Even so, that is good for us because it means we were successful in triggering a discussion at the very least.

Once we get affiliated to the idea of democracy, we will move on to the next step.

We don’t have any military forces; we have to admit that we are powerless. However, the Chinese government is scared of our movement. Right after we declared the establishment of a shadow parliament, the Chinese government sent a clear warning to the U.K. government. They said, “If you don’t stop Simon Cheng, the U.K. government will face serious consequences.” Their fear represents that our idea is an effective way to realize democratization.

I am not anti-China. I love the Chinese people. I don’t discard my country.

At the same time, however, I believe that if any government doesn’t allow democracy, its people have the legitimate right to overthrow it. This is not my personal perspective or personal preference. People are granted their own unconditional and fundamental freedom. If the government cannot achieve this [freedom], it will be overthrown by the people as a natural consequence.

Shadow Parliament Held by ‘Wanted’ Activist Turns China Pale
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