Authorities gave contradictory reports Sunday regarding the fate of a Chinese national who used King Norodom Sihamoni’s first public address on Saturday to stage an anti-China protest.
Cheng Fen slipped through hundreds of guards and police officers and rushed out of the assembled crowd in front of the Royal Palace with a sign reading “evil China” as King Sihamoni spoke from the balcony of Chanchhaya Hall shortly before 10 am.
King Sihamoni continued his speech seemingly unperturbed.
“China is evil. No freedom for speech, no freedom for religion, no freedom for human rights,” Cheng Fen said in English to reporters as he was hustled away, Reuters reported Saturday.
Sok Phal, Central Security Department Director for the Ministry of Interior, said Sunday that Cheng Fen was still in detention at Phnom Penh Municipal Police headquarters.
“We will make a decision tomorrow,” Sok Phal said. “We have arrested him four times already. He definitely has a mental problem.”
However, Heng Pov, municipal police chief, said: “We released him because he has mental problems.”
A reporter from local Chinese-language newspaper Jian Hua Daily, who asked not to be named, said that Cheng Fen was a former employee. He lost his job as a translator in 2002 after his employers believed he had a mental problem, the source said.
Cheng Fen was a student protester in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and was tortured by Chinese authorities, the source said. He fled to Burma and then Thailand before arriving in Cambodia in 1997.
He was last arrested in April for raising a sign that read “sick dark China” near the US Embassy.
Chinese Embassy officials denied knowledge of the incident Sunday and declined comment.
(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)