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Hong Kong Reporter Ching Ailing In Chinese Jail

Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong.
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Sep 18, 2006
The health of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, in China after being convicted of spying, is getting worse and could lead to him being granted medical parole, reports said Monday. Ching, 56, the Singapore Straits Times' chief China reporter, was jailed for five years by a Beijing court after being detained in April last year and accused of handing state secrets to Taiwan.

"He has lost a lot of weight and his high blood pressure is becoming serious," Ching's wife Mary Lau was quoted as telling The Standard newspaper.

But according to a report in the South China Morning Post newspaper, citing lawyers, Ching's situation meant he stood a good chance of early release on medical grounds.

The reports came as Lau and other supporters told a forum Sunday that her family had been collecting evidence to present to an appeal lodged against Ching's incarceration.

"Our aim is still fighting to get rid of the spy conviction," she was quoted by the Post as saying.

Ching was jailed on August 31 after a swift and closed trial. He had been held under house arrest since being arrested.

The verdict said he passed on information, some of it top secret, to two people from a Taiwanese foundation who were in fact deputies of an intelligence agency.

The case attracted international attention, highlighting China's toughening crackdown against foreign and domestic journalists in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Media groups launched petitions demanding his release.

The case also raised doubts about China's commitment to legal reforms, since Ching was held incommunicado before his closed-door, one-day trial last month.

Ching is awaiting notification of his appeal hearing. Lau said she expected to receive notice within two and a half months.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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