Journalist may lose his life in China jail

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The Independent Online

Human rights groups have called for the release of a Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong, who was jailed in April 2005 accused of spying for Taiwan. Mr Ching, who was born in China, is due to be sentenced this month and faces execution if convicted.

Mr Ching is a Hong Kong resident and the chief China correspondent for The Straits Times, based in Singapore. Chinese officials said he had confessed to "intelligence-gathering" and had accepted payment from "foreign intelligence agencies". He was charged with espionage in August.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory. An alliance of media rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have held events worldwide to demand China handle his case in a "fair, just and open" manner.

Mr Ching, 56, had worked for The Straits Times since 1996. He quit as the Beijing bureau chief of Hong Kong'sWen Wei Po newspaper in 1989 after the army crushed the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He was believed to have been collecting unpublished interviews with the late Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, who was purged for opposing themassacre.

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