CHINA. HONG KONG REPORTER ACCUSED OF SPYING
|Ching Cheong, shown in this undated photo, was detained last April
August 5, 2005: China has formally charged Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, 55, with spying for its rival Taiwan, the state news agency Xinhua has reported.
If Mr Ching is convicted, he could face the death penalty. Mr Ching, the chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, had been detained since late April.
China accuses him of buying information and passing it to Taiwan's intelligence services over a period of five years from 2000 to March 2005.
His wife, Mary Lau, has denied he did anything wrong, and was reported to be shocked by the charges. Chinese authorities quoted by Xinhua said Mr Ching had confessed during interrogation to spying.
Xinhua said he used a false name to buy "a great deal of information about China's political, economic and especially military affairs", using hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by Taiwan.
Mr Ching is accused of passing the information, which included classified documents, to Taiwan's intelligence services.
Mr Ching, a Hong Kong citizen, was detained on 22 April in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. China's foreign ministry said in May that he had admitted to spying. But his wife, Mary Lau, said he had travelled to China to collect documents linked to the former Chinese leader, Zhao Ziyang.
Zhao, who died in January, was ousted for opposing the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Mr Ching - who worked for the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po newspaper until the Tiananmen crackdown - is the first Hong Kong journalist to be charged with spying since China resumed sovereignty over the territory in 1997.
Like many Hong Kong citizens, he also holds a British National (Overseas) passport.
But a spokeswoman for the British embassy in Beijing said China had not granted Britain consular access to speak with Mr Ching. (Sources: Bbc, 05/08/2005)