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China 19 February 2007

Ching Cheong allowed New Year family visit after all

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the news that imprisoned Straits Times correspondent Ching Cheong was able to receive a visit from his wife, Mary Lau Man-Yee, for the Chinese New Year. Lau, who is also journalist, had initially been told on 14 February by the authorities of Guangdong prison, where he is being held, that she would not be allowed to see him.

“It would seem that the Chinese authorities are trying to be conciliatory as regards Ching,” the press freedom organisation said. “We strongly urge the government to continue down this positive road.”

This was the first time that Ching has been allowed a family visit since his arrest in April 2005. Lau, who was accompanied by Ching’s elder brother and younger sister during the 30-minute visit, said he seemed in reasonable shape although he had lost a lot of weight and his face had more lines. Ching told them not to worry and asked them to look after his parents.

Lau is still appealing to the Chinese authorities to grant medical parole to Ching, who is suffering from stomach pains and insomnia.


Prison "political education" means no Chinese new year family visit for Ching Cheong

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the refusal of the prison authorities to let imprisoned Straits Times correspondent Ching Cheong receive a family visit for the Chinese New Year. They took this decision after showing goodwill by transferring him from Beijing to the southern city of Guangzhou, near Hong Kong where his wife, Mary Lau Man-yee, lives.

A prison official told the family on 11 February that Ching must undergo a month of "education" and that its request for a visit had therefore been rejected.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the competent authorities to allow Ching to celebrate the New Year with his wife, who has not seen him since April 2005. "It would be an outrage if the prisoner’s family were again denied the right of a visit on spurious administrative grounds," the organisation said.

Ching was transferred from Beijing to Guangzhou on 31 January. He had just spent a month in Tianhe prison on the outskirts of Beijing, where he was already "educated." He was previously held at the Dahongmen state security centre.

On 24 November 2006, the High Court in Beijing upheld a five-year prison sentence against Ching Cheong for "spying". The journalist, who was arrested in April 2005, will due for release in 2010.

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