Journalist Ching Cheong imprisoned without lawyer for six months

New York, October 21, 2005 — The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the continuing imprisonment of veteran Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, who will mark six months in detention on Saturday. Ching, a China correspondent for the Singapore daily The Straits Times, has been held in Beijing without charge or access to a lawyer.

“It is outrageous that China is holding Ching without charge or access to counsel in violation of its international commitments to safeguard justice” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on authorities to release him immediately.”

Ching was detained in Guangzhou on April 22 while seeking the transcript of interviews with ousted former leader Zhao Ziyang, according to his wife Mary Lau. Mainland authorities blacked out coverage of Zhao’s death in January. Zhao spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing the military crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On August 5, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that he had been formally arrested on suspicion of spying for Taiwan.

On Tuesday, The Straits Times received notice from the State Council Information Office that Ching’s case is ongoing and will be handled according to the law, and that Ching is in good health and spirits, according to his wife. For the past six months, authorities have forbidden Ching from replying publicly or through a lawyer to accusations against him.

The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed, guarantees prisoners prompt access to defense counsel. In Ching’s case, national security charges have been used to deny him access to a lawyer during the pre-trial investigation period, in violation of the Covenant.

Forty-two journalists were imprisoned in China at the end of 2004, according to CPJ research.