IFJ Demands Not Guilty Verdict For Ching Cheong In China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court to find journalist Ching Cheong not guilty when it hands down its verdict for his trial, expected in the coming days.

According to local online news reports, a verdict in the trial, held behind closed doors on August 15, should be given by the end of the week, however no official confirmation of this has been given.

“While the IFJ maintains its position that Ching’s case, based on trumped up charges with no supporting solid evidence, should never have made it to trial, we call on the judicial system to fulfil its duty to justice and procedural fairness by finding Ching not guilty of all charges and order his immediate release,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

Ching, chief China correspondent for Singapore’s The Strait Times newspaper, was arrested in April 2005 in Ganghzhou and held for 106 days in isolation, refused a lawyer and denied access to family, friends and work colleagues, until he was formerly charged with spying for Taiwan in August.

The IFJ, the organisation representing over 100,000 journalists in more than 115 countries, and its affiliates including the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has continuously campaigned for the release of Ching and for all charges against him to be dropped.

A “guilty” verdict for Ching, in a case which should never have gone to trial, will add another black mark to China’s already disastrous press freedom record,” Warren said.

Other journalists facing conviction and serving jail time in China have received similarly abysmal treatment. In April 2005, Shi Tao, a foreign correspondent for Dangdai Chang Bao was convicted of ‘leaking state secrets abroad’ and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The public was denied access to Shi’s appeal hearing in June 2005, which was then dismissed without appropriate proceedings.

New York Times correspondent Zhao Yan still awaits verdict after his trial, which was held in secret on June 16 this year. Zhao is charged with ‘revealing state secrets’ and could possibly face the death penalty.

“It seems that journalists in China are guilty until they are proven innocent. China has an appalling track record of treating journalists unfairly before the law, and breaking all international trial standards. The international community will continue to pressure the Chinese Government to cease and desist these atrocious press freedom and human rights abuses,” Warren said.

The HKJA, in association with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Photographers Association, the Ching Cheong Incident Concern Group, Power for Democracy and Civil Human Right Front organised a candle light vigil on the opening day of the trial to show their support for Ching and to call for a fair, just and open trial.

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

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries