6 Aug 2005

China accuses journalist of spying

By Jane Macartney in Beijing

China yesterday charged a journalist for a Singapore newspaper with spying for Taiwan, alleging that Ching Cheong had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars to carry out espionage.

The arrest of the veteran journalist, who has reported on China for more than 20 years and is familiar with numerous government officials and prominent academics, may be intended to send a message to the media about the limits placed on press freedom by the Communist leadership.

Mr Ching, a China-born Hong Kong citizen - and thus a Chinese national in the eyes of Beijing - disappeared on April 22 while in southern China, where he was attempting to obtain a manuscript of interviews with a Communist Party leader purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on student demonstrators.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry waited until May to reveal for the first time that Mr Ching, Hong Kong-based chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, was being held on espionage charges. His arrest has now been formally approved by a Beijing court.

Mr Ching, 55, has confessed to spying, including taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy classified and military secrets on behalf of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

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