08/31/2006, 00.00
HONG KONG – CHINA
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China: five years behind bars for Ching Cheong, "guilty of spying"

The judges maintain that the reporter sold military secrets to Taiwan and created a spy network to plot against the state. In reality, when arrested, he was working on an article about the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The Beijing Intermediate People's Court has convicted Hong Kong reporter, Ching Cheong, of spying and sentenced him to five years in prison. This was reported yesterday by Xinhua, the Communist regime's official news agency.

Ching, a correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, was arrested in April last year. State media claim he confessed to selling military secrets to Taiwan and to setting up a spy network to "sell state secrets" to foreign powers.

In China, most information pertaining to the life of the nation is considered to be "state secret" and revealing it through the media is branded as "an attempt against state security". Currently at least 42 journalists are in prison because of this.

Dissident figures have told AsiaNews that the reasons for Ching Cheong's arrest are to be found in his research on Zhao Ziyang, who was secretary of the Party during the time of the pro-democracy uprisings, and about the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. The government continues to justify the massacre as a "minor" evil which guaranteed national stability and order, leading to economic success. 

He Peihua, Ching's lawyer, did not offer any explanation: "I need to respect the family's wishes. They don't want me to reveal the decision."

Meanwhile, the journalist's employers have called on the Chinese authorities to show "leniency and compassion" during his imprisonment. Singapore Press Holdings, the editor of the newspaper China worked for, said in a public appeal: ''We note with concern the sentence meted out. As he is known to be suffering from high blood pressure and is not in the best of health, we appeal to the Chinese authorities to show him leniency and compassion."

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