Jailed journalist in cancer scare given a reprieve

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, jailed on the mainland after being convicted of spying for Taiwan, has been given a reprieve from the threat of cancer, says his wife.

A medical examination last month confirmed intestinal polyps Ching developed had 'suddenly disappeared', his wife and fellow journalist Mary Lau Man-yee said.

Ching had been diagnosed with five or six polyps in 2000 and his family feared they might develop into colon cancer.

'It is a miracle. We don't know why and have not asked the doctor,' his wife told the South China Morning Post ahead of her husband's 58th birthday today.

She said the family felt deeply relieved when they heard the news. 'Perhaps it is a result of frequent praying,' said Ms Lau, who is a devout Buddhist.

But Ching, who was transferred from Beijing to Guangzhou prison in late January to serve his five-year sentence, is still suffering from an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and stomach problems.

His family and friends have been fighting for medical parole for him.

Ching's mother wrote to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen before the chief executive made his duty visit to Beijing in late November, in the hope that he could intercede with state leaders.

The family received a government reply confirming it had received the letter, but the family still has no idea when Ching will be freed.

'I don't want to speculate,' Ms Lau said. Parted from her husband for more than two years, she said suggestions of a possible release had come up many times, but none had been realised.

She described her Christmas feelings as 'unhappy but tranquil'.

She said the couple's house in rural Yuen Long was decorated for Christmas and festive lights were turned on at night. 'I hung them up as early as November and will have them there for a few months,' she said. 'This house is sad without him and I need something to make a cheerful atmosphere.'

Ms Lau wants to give her husband a birthday card when she visits him in Guangzhou prison next week. She said prison officials had offered her the chance to see her husband on his birthday today, but the family had then been allowed to visit him next week after the officials realised today was a mainland holiday.

'The prison is treating him quite well,' she said.

Ching, chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Times, has been detained on the mainland since April 2005. He was convicted of spying for Taiwan and jailed for five years in Beijing in August last year.