31 October 2006
COURT DECIDES TO SKIP HEARINGS WHEN CONSIDERING CHING CHEONG'S APPEAL
Reporters Without Borders today said it was outraged by a Chinese court's decision not to hold any hearings when it considers Hong Kong-based journalist Ching Cheong's appeal against the five-year prison sentence and heavy fine he was given in August for alleged spying.
"What do the judicial authorities have to fear when they deny an honest journalist the right to be defended," the press freedom organisation said. "Regardless of the crude distortion and imprecision of the lower court's verdict, politically-influenced judges are getting ready to uphold an unfair conviction without even troubling to hold a single hearing."
Reporters Without Borders added: "We call on Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who said he had confidence in the courts' handling of this case, to ensure that public hearings are held and that the defence is able to present its arguments."
It was Ching's lawyers who reported that the Beijing appeal court has decided to consider the appeal without hearings. Ching's wife, Mary Lau, said that she was "disappointed" by the court's decision. "They have deprived us of the possibility of demonstrating that the Taiwanese foundation Ching Cheong was working with is not a spy agency," she told Reporters Without Borders.
Ching's lawyers say the appeal process should take place in November. It could be limited to an announcement confirming the sentence. Chinese law allows an appeal court to act without convening any hearing if it thinks the evidence presented by the prosecution at the trial was sufficient.
The appeal was filed on 8 September. Ching, who is the correspondent of the Singapore-based Straits Times daily, has always insisted on his innocence. His health has reportedly deteriorated considerably since his arrest in April last year.