A British consulate employee has been released after 15 days of detention in mainland China.

Police in Shenzhen said Simon Cheng Man-kit was released as scheduled on Saturday, having been detained for violating public security management regulations.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned newspaper, said he had been detained for “soliciting prostitutes”.

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China often uses such charges against political targets.

In a statement on Facebook, Mr Cheng’s family thanked the public for their support, adding that he and his family “wish to have some time to rest and recover and will not take any interview for the moment”.

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The 28-year-old is a trade and investment officer in the Scottish Development International government agency, inside Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong.

He failed to return to work on 8 August after a business trip to Shenzhen, which links Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland.

Unconfirmed reports suggested he was detained in China while returning to the territory, where there have been mass anti-government protests.

Those protests are set to continue this weekend, with demonstrators reportedly planning to “stress test” transport links to the airport early on Saturday.

Hong Kong’s authorities have taken out a court order to prevent protests at the airport, which had to close last week due to demonstrations, grounding about 1,000 flights.

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People entering the airport are being asked to show boarding passes and passports, witnesses said, but train and road links are mainly clear for now.

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Protests are also planned on Saturday in other districts including Kwun Tong on the Kowloon peninsula.

The city’s train operator, the MTR Corporation, warned train services could be stopped immediately if “fights, vandalism or other acts of violence occur”.

People hold hands and use their phone torches as they form a human chain along a pedestrian crossing in Hong Kong on August 23, 2019
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Hong Kong has been gripped by the protests for several weeks

Hong Kong has been gripped by the protests for several weeks, initially over plans for a law that would allow people from the territory to be extradited to mainland China.

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But broader concerns about claims of police brutality and the erosion of freedoms under the “one country, two systems” formula – enacted after Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 – have now come to the fore.

The protesters want democratic reforms and the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to resign.

Officials have so far refused to meet any of the protesters’ key demands.

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