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Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Jailed China journalist to appeal
Ching Cheong (courtesy: The Straits Times)
Ching Cheong received a five-year sentence
The wife of a Hong Kong journalist jailed in mainland China for spying says her husband is to appeal.

Ching Cheong, the chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, was sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison.

Mary Lau said her husband had sent her a message calling his conviction unfair and vowing to appeal against it.

Her comments come amid criticism in Hong Kong over the sentence, and calls for Ching's release.

Chinese media reported that Ching was found guilty of buying information and passing it to Taiwan's intelligence services over a period of five years from mid-2000 to March 2005.

State news agency Xinhua said Ching had confessed to the charges, a statement both his family and employers reject.

They say he was in Guangzhou to collect secret papers linked to the former Chinese leader, Zhao Ziyang, who was ousted for opposing the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

'Very unfair'

Mary Lau said her husband told her in a message sent via his lawyers that the judge only heard prosecution evidence at the one-day trial.

Ching was tried in an unacceptable way on baseless charges
Reporters Without Borders

"He believes himself innocent, and that the verdict was very unfair to him," she said.

Ms Lau said an appeal would be filed within the 10-day time limit.

The case has sparked criticism in Hong Kong, with a number of newspapers questioning the legitimacy of the legal proceedings.

The Straits Times has appealed to China for leniency for Ching, asking for a sentence reduction.

"We urge that you take into consideration his professional record as a journalist for the Straits Times, and the fact that he is in poor health," Reuters news agency quoted a letter from editor Han Fook Kwang as saying.

Media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, meanwhile, called the sentence "appalling".

"Ching was tried in an unacceptable way on baseless charges," the organisation said in a statement.

More than 80 journalists and "cyber-dissidents" are currently imprisoned in China, the organisation said.

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