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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 06:22 GMT 07:22 UK
HK reporter 'on trial in Beijing'
Ching Cheong (courtesy: The Straits Times)
China accuses Ching Cheong of buying secret documents
The trial of a Hong Kong journalist accused of spying for Taiwan has begun in China, according to media reports.

Ching Cheong, 56, the chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, has been detained in China since April 2005.

China has accused him of buying information and passing it to Taiwan's intelligence services over a period of five years from 2000 to March 2005.

Both his family and his employers have rejected the charges.

Mr Ching is the first Hong Kong journalist to be charged with spying since China resumed sovereignty over the territory in 1997.

'Bought information'

The trial opened at a Beijing's No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, Hong Kong Cable TV and local station RTHK reported.

A Hong Kong-based group, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, also announced in a statement that the trial was under way.

There was no confirmation of proceedings from court officials. China usually conducts trials involving espionage in secret.

Mr Ching was arrested in the Chinese city of Guangzhou in April 2005.

Chinese authorities say he has confessed to spying for Taiwan.

When he was charged in August 2005, state-run Xinhua news agency said that he had bought information about Chinese political, economic and military affairs to pass to Taiwanese intelligence officials.

But his wife said he had travelled to China to collect documents linked to the former Chinese leader, Zhao Ziyang.

Mr Zhao, who died in January 2005, was ousted for opposing the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On Tuesday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association backed Mr Ching in a full-page advertisement in newspaper Apple Daily.

The advertisement said a request by Mr Ching's family to attend the trial had been turned down, the Associated Press news agency reported.

On Monday, the vice-chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, Albert Ho, urged Chief Executive Donald Tsang to appeal for Mr Ching's release and called for the journalist to receive an "open and fair trial".

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