Ching Cheong

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Ching, a veteran Hong Kong reporter who was the China correspondent for the Singapore daily The Straits Times, was detained in Guangzhou while attempting to meet with a source to obtain transcripts of interviews with the late ousted leader Zhao Ziyang. Ching was held under house arrest in Beijing without access to a lawyer or his family until a formal arrest order was issued in August 2005 on espionage charges.

Official Xinhua News Agency reports in 2005 accused Ching of collecting millions of Hong Kong dollars to spy for Taiwan. Specific charges against him were not made clear until after his trial in a closed hearing in Beijing on August 15, 2006. On August 31, 2006, the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court convicted Ching of espionage and sentenced him to five years in prison, plus an additional year’s deprivation of political rights.

The verdict in the case later appeared online and was published by several Hong Kong newspapers. The document accused Ching of accepting around 300,000 Hong Kong dollars (not millions as first reported by Xinhua) in fees to submit classified reports on political affairs, economics, and international relations for a Taiwan-based organization called the Foundation of International and Cross-Strait Studies, which authorities said was a cover for a Taiwan intelligence organization. Prosecutors said that Ching had met two representatives from the organization at a current events conference, and had done research for them, including sending them reporting that he and others had done for The Straits Times.

In his defense, Ching argued that he had no knowledge that the organization was a front for Taiwan intelligence–a charge the foundation itself strongly denied–and that he had provided no state secrets. Ching’s appeal was rejected in November 2006.