Monday, May 30, 2005

Hong Kong journalist arrested in China for reporting on 1989 Tian an Men massacre ?!?

The Washington Post has a report on the Chinese
government's detention of Ching Cheong, a renowned
journalist from Hong Kong working for Singapore.

Ching was working on a story in involving secret
interviews with a former Communist party chief who
opposed the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacres, and who
died recently after 16 years of house arrest.

After receiving a call from someone on the mainland
claiming to have access to the interviews, Ching
traveled to Beijing to get them. When he arrived, he
was swiftly detained. Though China often takes its own
journalists into custody, this is the first instance in
which a foreign reporter has been arrested.

Security agents apprehended Ching Cheong, chief China
correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times newspaper,
on April 22 in the southern city of Guangzhou, where he
was scheduled to meet a source who had promised to give
him a copy of the politically sensitive manuscript,
according to the journalist's wife, Mary Lau.

Lau said Chinese authorities warned her and the Straits
Times not to disclose her husband's detention, and she
stayed silent for weeks in the hope he would be
released. She said she decided to go public last week
after a mainland official told her privately that the
government was preparing to charge him with "stealing
core state secrets."

If charged, Ching would be the second journalist for a
foreign newspaper arrested by the government of
President Hu Jintao in the past year. Zhao Yan, a
researcher in the Beijing bureau of the New York Times,
was arrested by the State Security Ministry in September
on similar charges and has been held incommunicado
without trial since.

The arrests could have a chilling effect on foreign news
operations in China. The Chinese government often jails
Chinese journalists and writers -- the advocacy group
Reporters Without Borders says there are more
journalists in prison in China than anywhere else in the
world -- but in the past it has generally refrained from
arresting individuals employed by foreign news agencies.

The Straits Times, which has not reported the detention
of its correspondent, said in a written statement Sunday
that it had been told by the Chinese Embassy in
Singapore that Ching "is assisting security authorities
in Beijing with an investigation into a matter not
related to the Straits Times."

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