Charges Dropped Against New York Times Researcher and IFJ Calls for the Same for Imprisoned Ching Cheong

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed news that charges have been dropped against New York Times researcher, Zhao Yan and called for the further release of at least thirty other journalists currently imprisoned in China.

Zhao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, confirmed on March 17 that Beijing prosecutors and judges had told him that the charges against his client had been dropped and that the journalist should be freed within days. The lawyer said he believed the release was linked to Chinese president Hu Jintao's forthcoming visit to the United States in April of this year.

The dropping of all charges comes after the February 22 decision by authorities to adjourn Zhao’s trial for one month based on a lack of evidence. Zhao has been under arrest since October 20, 2004 and facing the death penalty for allegedly divulging state secrets, fraud and was falsely accused of having exposed political retirement of Jiang Zemin to his newspaper before the official announcement.

”While we welcome news of the dropping of the charges against Zhao Yan’s,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

“Over 30 journalists remain imprisoned in China and we vehemently call for the release of those who remain in prison,” said Warren.

Among those in jail are Hong Kong resident and The Strait Times journalist, Ching Cheong. Ching has been imprisoned since April 22, 2005 and is facing life imprisonment for allegedly spying for Taiwan and ‘endangering national security’.

On February 22, Ching’s trial was delayed when the prosecutor sent back his file to the State Security Department for it to produce further evidence in connection with the case. Ching, has refused to sign the investigation report prepared by State Security, and his detention without trial is a violation of Chinese legal procedure.

IFJ-affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association has petitioned the HKSAR Government and the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR calling on Chinese prosecutors to release Ching.

“With the state being unable to provide concrete evidence to demonstrate Ching’s guilt, we are calling for his immediate release,” said Warren.

A recent addition to the journalists being held in prison is Internet journalist Li Jianping, who was recently charged for alleged subversion of state power and suspicion of defamation in a previous charge despite his case being rejected twice due to lack of evidence.

”Now that the charges have been dropped against Zhao Yan we urge the authorities to drop all charges against Ching Cheong, Li Jianping and the other 30 journalists in prison in China, “ said Warren.

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

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries