25 Jul 2006

Global appeal to release jailed ST journalist

( Straits Times 2006-07-21)

THE plight of detained Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong got an international airing yesterday when groups calling for his release held news conferences in 10 cities worldwide. New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Bonn and Melbourne were among the cities where non-governmental groups such as Reporters Without Borders and The Members of the New York Press Club held media events to demand that the Chinese authorities handle Mr Ching 's case in a 'fair, just and open' manner.

The press conferences featured a video of Mr Ching 's wife, Ms Mary Lau, personally appealing for help to free her husband. In the video, she called on the world community to show support and watch the case closely to 'make sure that the Chinese government will not do anything to harm my husband'.

The appeal was the most solid show of support for Mr Ching , Ms Lau told The Straits Times, since he was detained on April 22 last year in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Mr Ching , 56, a Hong Kong resident and this newspaper's Chief China Correspondent, was charged last August in Beijing with spying for Taiwan in return for large sums of money. He is currently awaiting trial in the Chinese capital.

Yesterday's initiative, Ms Lau added, was spearheaded by the Los Angeles-based Visual Artists Guild (Vag) and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The website of Vag said it is a non-profit organisation set up in 1985 in support of free speech and expression. 'I am very thankful to all these worldwide organisations for doing this for my husband,' Ms Lau said, adding that the video was shot late last year. 'I hope that it will help in any way possible to secure his safe release.' Hong Kong's media and politicians have constantly insisted over the past year that Mr Ching 's lengthy detention is unjustified, with no show of proof.

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