Release Ching Cheong before he gets cancer, supporters urge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2007, 12:00am

Family and friends of jailed journalist Ching Cheong yesterday renewed calls for his release on medical parole amid fears that his intestinal polyps may develop into colon cancer.

Ching, chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Times, was first detained on April 22, 2004. He was later jailed for five years for spying for Taiwan and was transferred from Beijing to Guangzhou on January 31 this year to serve his term.

'We've received messages from reliable sources that Ching Cheong's health has deteriorated. He has an irregular heartbeat and has to take drugs frequently. He also has colon polyps which, if not treated, could develop into colon cancer,' Lo King-wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, said during a protest march yesterday.

Carrying a banner with the words 'Release Ching Cheong under medical parole' in both Chinese and English, Lo and members of the journalists group marched to the Central Government Offices and the central government's liaison office to hand over two letters.

One of the letters was addressed to President Hu Jintao, while the other was to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

Ching's wife, journalist Mary Lau Man-yee, who did not take part in the march, said the family was trying to contact the prison to ask that the polyps, discovered in 2000, be checked and treated if necessary.

'Before he was detained, he had a check-up every year to monitor the polyps, but they have been left untreated since 2004,' Lau said.

Colorectal surgeon Chu Kin-wah said the polyps could develop into colon cancer in 10 years if they were not treated.

Mainland law expert Ong Yew-kim said the time was ripe for the family to press for medical parole given the time Ching had spent in prison and his deteriorating health.

'He has not misbehaved in any way. I think his family should press for the request,' Mr Ong said. 'Politically, the sensation surrounding the Ching Cheong case has faded and the situation is stable at the moment, so it's time to do something.'

Although family members did not take part in the march, Lau said they had not stopped pressing for Ching's release and had kept in contact with the authorities.