IFJ Calls for Release of Journalists Jailed Without Evidence in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is calling for the release of two journalists in China after their trials were separately adjourned on February 22, 2006 based on a lack of evidence.

At the request of his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, the trial of New York Times contributor, Zhao Yan, who has been under arrest since October 20, 2004, was adjourned for one month as agreed by the authorities so that the file could be re-examined.

On the same day, Hong Kong The Straits Times journalist, Ching Cheong was sent back to the State Security Department for a more thorough investigation. Cheong has been imprisoned since April 22, 2005.

“The two journalists’ cases exemplify how journalists, whether local or foreign, can be detained without the proper justice procedures such as a notice, a formal arrest order, or the requisite amount of evidence,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

“With the state being unable to provide concrete evidence to demonstrate guilt, we are calling for the immediate release of both journalists,” said Warren.

Zhao was allegedly arrested for “divulging state secrets” and “fraud”, and falsely accused of having exposed the political retirement of Jiang Zemin to his newspaper before the official announcement.

Similarly, Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong’s trial has been delayed for at least one month after the prosector in charge of the case decided to send his file back to the State Security Department for it to produce further evidence.

Cheong, for now, has refused to sign the investigation report prepared by State Security, and his detention without trial is a violation of Chinese legal procedure.

He is being accused of spying for Taiwan and faces life imprisonment for “endangering national security”.

The Chinese Government has been commonly known to imprison Chinese journalists, however, in the past the government has refrained from jailing foreign journalists and those employed by foreign news agencies.

“Cheong’s and Zhao Yan’s detentions has consequently the potential to have a distressing effect on foreign news operations in China,” said Warren.

A petition for Cheong’s release in conjunction with the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has already received more than 10,000 people.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries