11/23/2006, 00.00
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Beijing: tomorrow final verdict for Ching Cheong, arrested without proof

Tomorrow, the High Court of the capital will hand down its decision on the appeal filed by the journalist, condemned to five years in jail for spying. His wife is worried about his health.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Beijing High Court will tomorrow pronounce its verdict on the appeal filed by Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong journalist sentenced to five years imprisonment for spying. This was reported by the Strait Times of Singapore, where Ching worked as head-correspondent for China.

The newspaper said the accused, his family and lawyers will be present at the appeal, held behind closed doors. The court was required to review defence statements written by his lawyer and Ching himself.

The journalist's wife, Mary Lau, said she was "anxious" about the outcome, but was "holding out hope he would be acquitted". Lau said she was "worried" about her husband's health. He has lost nearly five kilos since being imprisoned and suffers from insomnia, high blood pressure and intestinal pains.

Ching, 56, has been under arrest since April 2005. On 31 August, the court condemned him to five years in jail: the journalist was said to have 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 Taipei 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. 

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