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China 24 April 2006

Call for Ching Cheong’s release in the absence of proof

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Reporters Without Borders announced today that it is supporting the appeal for Ching Cheong’s immediate and unconditional release that was published on 22 April - the first anniversary of his arrest - in two of the leading Hong Kong dailies under the headline: “No evidence, free Ching Cheong!”

The Hong Kong-based China correspondent of the Singapore-based Straits Times newspaper, Ching Cheong faces a possible death sentence on a charge of spying although the Chinese authorities have produced no evidence against him.

Reporters Without Borders has signed this appeal and is backing the campaign by the Hong Kong Journalists Association for his release. The press freedom organisation also has a petition that can be signed on its own website, at: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=13970

Ching was arrested on 22 April 2005 while on his way to the southern city of Guangzhou. Several sources have said he was seeking documents about former Communist Party of China leader Zhao Ziyang, who died in January 2005 while still under house arrest for negotiating with pro-democracy protesters in 1989. Ching’s wife, Mary Lau, thinks an intermediary set a trap for him.

The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement on 31 May 2005 alleging that Ching was a spy in the pay of foreign agencies. It said: “Ching Cheong has admitted that he followed instructions from foreign intelligence agencies in recent years, undertook intelligence gathering activities in China and received large amounts for his spying expenses.” The Straits Times said it was shocked by the allegations.

Ching has a British National Overseas passport of the kind issued to citizens of Hong Kong, a former British colony. He also has residency in Singapore.




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