09/04/2006, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Wife of Hong Kong journalist imprisoned in China will fight for his appeal

Mary Lau, Ching Cheong's wife, has requested that her husband receive medical treatment in prison: he has serious cardiac problems. The journalist, condemned to five years in prison after a trial without evidence, will spend his time studying.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Ching Cheong, a journalist condemned to five years in prison for spying, will devote his time in detention to studying if his sentence is not overturned on appeal. His wife says she is confident but has called on the authorities to check her husband's health regularly; he suffers from cardiac problems.

Ching, the chief China correspondent of Singapore's The Straits Times was arrested in April 2005. 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.

The journalist's lawyers described his sentence as "mistaken, because it was pronounced without proof" while Taiwan has often said the charges are unfounded and has given unequivocal guarantees of the reporter's innocence.

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. 

Ching's wife, Mary Lau Man-yee, is also a journalist. Yesterday she reiterated her husband's innocence but added that "he has to face facts. He knows his situation and said he wants to make use of the time to further his studies about China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan and to do comparative research on them. All the same, we are optimistic and have hopes about the appeal."

Lau then made an appeal to the authorities. "I am concerned about my husband's health. He suffers from high blood pressure and irregular heart beat. I hope he can receive medical treatment in Hong Kong as soon as possible.

News of his sentence "shocked" the world of Chinese media. In an article that appeared today in the South China Morning Post, Wang Xiangwei – editor-in-chief of the newspaper – described the news as "depressing reading for anyone who cares about China, particularly those who genuinely cheer its economic rise and its efforts at building a harmonious society."

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