Ching Cheong, the Hong Kong journalist who was chief China correspondent for the Singapore-based Straits Times, is ailing in prison somewhere in the Guangdong province right now. On 22 April 2005, Ching was apprehended by Chinese security agents in Guangzhou, where he was to meet a source who had promised to give him a copy of a politically sensitive manuscript on former premier Zhao Ziyang. It took one and a half years before he was eventually prosecuted (for spying on behalf of a foreign intelligence agency and for divulging state secrets) and sentenced to five years in prison.
The detention of Ching has sent a shiver down the spine of Hong Kong’s journalist community many of whom believe press freedom has gone down south since the return of the territory to China.
In the latest open letter by the Hong Kong Journalist Association to President Hu Jintao, the HKJA says Ching Cheong’s health is deteriorating and has urged for his release under medical parole. From the letter:
Mr. Ching Cheong has been suffering from arrhythmia. Recently HKJA learned that his illness has deteriorated rapidly in jail. Irregular heartbeat occurs daily now. The Chinese herbal medicine which he is taking constantly keeps his blood vessels from dilating, a condition which will cause further problems later.
In addition doctor has also found polyps in Mr. Ching Cheong’s intestine. This problem has not been taken care of. These polyps may become cancerous in few years time, thereby endangering his life.
According to his Wikipedia entry, Ching started his career with the pro-China newspaper Wen Wei Po (文滙報), rising through the ranks to become vice-editorial manager. After the Tiananmen incident however, Ching and around 40 other journalists resigned from the newspaper in protest.
Update: According to a Straits Times report, prison officers have promised to allow jailed Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong to have regular intestinal check-ups to prevent a medical condition from worsening, his wife has said. A South China Morning Post report also said that Ching has to get up at 6am every day to start work making uniforms in a prison factory, and sometimes has to work till 10pm.
Picture of old Hong Kong newspaper article announcing the imprisonment of Ching Cheong from [email protected].