Ching Cheong - Arrest On Spy Charges

Arrest On Spy Charges

In the spring of 2005, he entered mainland China on a Home Visit Permit, while researching former Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang. On 22 April 2005 he was charged with spying on behalf of a foreign intelligence agency and was arrested in Guangzhou.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry later reported that he had confessed to these accusations. Formal charges were drawn up on 5 August. He was charged with passing state secrets to the Republic of China (Taiwan) over a period of five years. In particular, he was accused of using money provided by Taiwan to purchase political and military information. He is the first Hong Kong journalist to be charged with spying since the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the PRC in 1997. Ching's wife, Mary Lau, says the charges are ludicrous. She also added that Ching had apparently fallen victim of entrapment by an intermediary as he was trying to obtain recordings of secret interviews with the former Prime Minister.

In June 2005, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Reporters Without Borders organized a petition calling for Ching's immediate release from unfair detention. The petition, containing more than 13,000 signatures, was sent to Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China. The International Federation of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists have also protested Ching Cheong's detention. The British Government was also asked to intervene as Ching Cheong holds a British National (Overseas) passport. During the incidence, some irresponsible tabloids in Hong Kong spread rumours that he was spying because he had to earn money for his mistress in China. Then the lady in suspicion came to Hong Kong from China and gave witness that she had no relationship with Mr. Ching. Thus, this vicious accusation was broken. A lot of evidence showed that Ching Cheong was innocent of committing any crime.

On 12 January 2006, 35 legislative councillors including 10 pro-Beijing councillors (including 3 from the Liberal Party, 3 from the DAB, 1 from the Alliance Party) signed an open letter asking the Chinese authorities to release Ching unless there was sufficient evidence.

On 22 February 2006, the prosecutor in charge of Ching's case decided to send his file back to the State Security Department for further investigation. The trial was thus delayed for at least one month.

Ching was tried in camera, found guilty of spying, and was sentenced on 31 August 2006 to five years' imprisonment. The family's statement on the same day stated the verdict was extremely biased, adopting only evidence of the Procuratorate while ignoring almost all defence arguments and Ching's self-defence.

On 1 September 2006 Ching's wife reported that her husband had called the verdict "very unfair" and vowed to appeal the sentence.

On 5 February 2008, the Chinese government announced that they had released Ching from prison early, days before the Chinese New Year holiday. It is believed that this decision was made by the then newly promoted central secretary, Xi Jinping.

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