UPDATED: Hong Kong police probe whether body found is missing Newfoundland man

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Hong Kong police have not confirmed whether a body found last Wednesday is that of 25-year-old St. John's native Joseph

TORONTO - Police in Hong Kong are investigating whether a body discovered in the city last Wednesday is that of a missing Canadian.

Police had earlier said Joseph Basha, a 25-year-old student from Newfoundland and Labrador, had disappeared on Dec. 21.

A police spokesman told The Canadian Press that on that same day, the body of a foreigner aged 25 to 30, was found "collapsed in a public toilet."

The spokesman said the "body had no identity documents" and the initial investigation suggests the death is not suspicious.

The missing man's family has been asked to go to Hong Kong to identify the body and the spokesman adds some relatives have already arrived.

Messages of condolences, meanwhile, have been posted on a Facebook page dedicated to finding the 25-year-old student and musician.

On her page, Basha's sister, Cindy, posted a message early Tuesday saying she regrets to say that her "beautiful, talented, sweet brother" was found dead last Wednesday.

"My brother was so loved and had such a significant impact on all of those who knew him. This was a such a tremendous loss for us all," she wrote.

Reports said Basha, also known as Joey, lived in Hong Kong since 2008 and was studying international and public affairs at the University of Hong Kong.

Basha was also the lead singer of the band Milkteeth.

EARLIER STORY (By Andrew Robinson/The Telegram):

When Phyllis Basha did not hear from her son living in Hong Kong on Christmas Day, it worried her.

"To not call home on Christmas Day, that's a big tell-tale to me," said the mother of Joseph "Joey" Basha.

Police in Hong Kong are now investigating the disappearance of the 25-year-old, originally from St. John's, who went missing last Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Regional Missing Persons Unit of Kowloon West contacted by The Canadian Press Monday said its investigation is underway.

The spokesperson said the investigation is at the preliminary stage.

Phyllis received a phone call from her son's roommate, Dino Lee, two days after Joseph disappeared. She had been expecting a call from her son for a few days.

Teacher, student and musician

Phyllis said he had earlier asked his mother to buy a locally made t-shirt to send in the mail.

"My alarm was up because of that, a couple of days prior to getting a phone call from his roommate."

She was told by Lee that Joseph left home at approximately 3 a.m. on Dec. 21 to grab a bite to eat.

Joseph moved to Hong Kong in 2008 to teach English as a second language. He is enrolled in a graduate studies program for international and public affairs at the University of Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese.

Joseph also performs in a local band called Milkteeth. It has appeared on MTV Asia and opened for touring American groups, most recently Deerhoof.

Hindering efforts to locate Joseph has been the lack of media coverage in Hong Kong, which his mother attributes the disappearance coinciding with the holiday season.

However, Phyllis was contacted Monday by a reporter preparing a story for a local paper. She is hopeful media coverage will help police find new leads regarding her son's whereabouts.

Phyllis said sightings have been reported by a convenience store clerk who served Joseph and by a doorman who saw him with a group of men. Both sightings were said to have taken place Dec. 22.

Joseph is the sort of person who "fears nothing and nobody," according to his mother, and its a trait that concerns her.

"He befriends people very easily and he doesn't have any paranoia about people. That's a bad trait to me when you're living in a big city," said Phyllis. "That aspect of him always scared me when he moved to Hong Kong."

Phyllis said friends of Joseph have been canvassing the area, taking his picture to shops in hopes someone will recall having spotted him recently.

She has spoken with many of his friends from around the world, and said not one of them had any sort of communication with Joseph that suggested he intended to go anywhere or get lost for a period of time.

Joseph's older sister Jackie and her husband have since flown to Hong Kong from New York. Phyllis said Jackie, who is a physician, intends to visit local hospitals and circulate a photo of Joseph.

It is believed Joseph took his cellphone with him, but his mother said police have been unable to track him, as the phone has been turned off.

Joseph has four siblings, including a younger sister Cindy who is home for the holidays and an older brother Robert who lives in Rhode Island. Phyllis said Robert has felt isolated from the situation surrounding his younger brother.

"They're all pretty tight," she said.

Messages expressing concern about Basha's disappearance have been posted on Facebook during the last two days.

A poster circulating on the website describes Basha as 5'7" and approximately 132 pounds with medium-length brown hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a black jacket with a dark shirt, jeans and blue shoes at the time of his disappearance.

Phyllis said the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is in contact with Hong Kong authorities and the Canadian Consultate for the Special Administrative Region regarding the disappearance of Joseph.

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: TeleAndrew - With files from The Canadian Press

Organizations: Canadian Press, University of Hong Kong, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canadian Consultate

Geographic location: Hong Kong, St. John's, MTV Asia New York Rhode Island

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