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Ching Cheong Sentence “Deeply Troubling”

August 31, 2006

Human
Rights in China (HRIC)
is deeply
troubled by the sentence imposed on Ching Cheong today.
In
light of China’s clear record of politicized prosecutions, and lack of judicial
independence and transparency, HRIC has serious concerns about the fairness of
the whole proceedings," said Sharon Hom, HRIC’s executive director. “Coming
close on the heels of the sentences announced for Zhao Yan and Chen Guangcheng,
this sentence also sends a chilling message to journalists, lawyers and other
rights defenders.”


A
permanent resident of Hong Kong and Singapore,
Ching Cheong, 56, worked for Wen Wei Po,
a pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong, for many years before resigning in protest
after the official crack-down on protesters at Tiananmen
Square
in June 1989. He was working as chief China correspondent for Singapore’s Straits
Times
when he was detained in a Guangzhou
hotel on April 22, 2005. Ching’s wife, Mary Lau, said Ching had gone to China
to collect documents relating to former Chinese Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang,
who died in January 2005.


On
August 5, 2005, the Chinese authorities announced that they had formally
charged Ching with buying information and passing it to Taiwan’s intelligence services from
2000 to March 2005. Ching’s family and friends have consistently denied the
charges, and petitions calling for Ching’s release have been signed by
journalists worldwide, as well as by members of Hong Kong’s
Legislative Council.


Ching
Cheong’s case highlights issues of procedural fairness that surround
prosecutions and trials involving state security. The hampering of defense
counsel’s access to evidence and the lack of transparency in the proceedings
leave real doubts that Ching Cheong and other defendants charged with similar
crimes can receive a fair trial under China’s present judicial system.


Following
close on the heels of the imprisonment of journalist Zhao Yan and rights
defense lawyer Chen Guangcheng, Ching Cheong’s sentence is yet another signal
of the Chinese authorities’ determination
to maintain social and political control, especially in the run-up to
the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party next year,
and in the final count-down to the Olympics.




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