Speaking on behalf of the government, a Beijing official has rejected the call made by Reporters Without Borders and the Hong Kong Journalists Association for the release of journalist Ching Cheong, although more than 13,000 people signed a petition to President Hu Jintao calling for him to be set free.
Wang Rundeng, the deputy director of the parliamentarians’ bureau, said: "You cannot break the law simply because you are a journalist."
Reporters Without Borders condemned the rigidity of the Chinese authorities and reiterated its call for Ching’s release. "Beijing cannot just turn a deaf ear to such a momentum of solidarity," the press freedom organisation said.
Ching has not been allowed to see his family ever since his arrest on 22 April
Hong Kong journalist formally charged with spying for Taiwan
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the charge of spying for Taiwan which, according to the official news agency Xinhua, was formally brought by the Chinese state security bureau today against Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, who is accused of selling economic, political and military information to Taiwanese agents for millions of dollars since 2000. Some of this "top secret" information endangered national security, Xinhua said.
Ching faces possible life imprisonment
The Singapore-based Straits Times daily newspaper confirmed that it was informed by the Chinese ambassador about the charges against Ching, its correspondent for China. The newspaper again asked China’s representatives to let it have access to its correspondent and to provide him with a lawyer.
The Chinese foreign ministry announced on 31 May that Ching had confessed to being a "spy in the pay of foreign agencies." Although based in Hong Kong, he is a resident of Singapore. He holds a "British National Overseas" passport, a category of passport reserved for the citizens of Hong Kong. He was arrested on 22 April in the southern city of Guangzhou and is now held in Beijing.
More than 13,000 people have so far signed a petition for his release which is available at www.petition-chingcheong.org
Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong accused of spying
Reporters Without Borders expressed dismay at accusations of spying levelled against Ching Cheong by the Chinese foreign ministry. The authorities in Beijing announced on 31 May that the correspondent for the Singapore daily Straits Times had confessed to being a spy in the pay of foreign agencies. The official statement read, "Ching Cheong confessed : Following instructions from a foreign intelligence agency, he engaged in intelligence gathering activities in China and received significant a large spying fee." The management of Straits Times said it was shocked at these accusations. The journalist’s wife, Mary Lau, told the press that her husband had told her he could be held for a long period. She also explained that he had apparently fallen into a trap set by an intermediary as he was trying to obtain recordings of secret interviews with former prime minister Zhao Ziyang.
Hong Kong journalist detained in Beijing for more than one month
30 May 2005
Reporters Without Borders called on Singapore and Britain to act to obtain the release of journalist Ching Cheong (photo), Hong Kong correspondent for the Singapore daily Straits Times who has been detained in Beijing for more than one month.
The Singapore-resident journalist, who was picked up by Chinese police in Guangzhou, southern China on 22 April, is the holder of a British National Overseas (BNO) passport specific to Hong Kong. He faces a possible charge of "stealing state secrets".
The Singapore and British governments should pressure for the immediate release of the journalist, the worldwide press freedom organisation said in letter addressed to the Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw.
The organisation insisted that Singapore government had an obligation to protect the freedom of the journalist who was working for a pro-government newspaper Straits Times. The Singapore ministry of foreign affairs however stated on 30 May that the Chinese authorities had not contacted it about the subject so they did not have sufficient information.
Ching Cheong, 55, travelled to Guangzhou to collect documents connected with the former communist party leader, Zhao Ziyang, who died in January while under house arrest for negotiating with demonstrators in 1989.
Ching is the second journalist employed by a foreign newspaper to be detained in China. New York Times contributor, Zhao Yan, was arrested by Chinese authorities in October 2004 and accused of "divulging state secrets".
sign the international appeal for Ching Cheong