I didn't spy for Taiwan, says released journalist

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong insisted on his innocence as he spoke in public for the first time since being freed from a Guangzhou prison, vowing he had not spied for Taiwan.

He also called on the mainland authorities to grant amnesty to more prisoners, to enhance social harmony in the run-up to this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Ching yesterday made a statement to about 100 journalists gathered at the Foreign Correspondents' Club about his conviction on charges of spying for Taiwan, for which he was held for nearly three years in mainland jails.

'I have not done anything that would endanger national security or harm national interests. I have a clear conscience,' he said.

'I have not let down those who give me understanding, trust and support. As I stressed in court, I did not have any subjective intention to spy, nor did I knowingly commit any offence.

'I have never held any state secret, not to mention passing on state secrets to Taiwan.'

The 58-year-old chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Times stopped short of commenting on details of his case. 'If I behave inappropriately, I may get into trouble again,' he said, emphasising that he was freed on parole from an original five-year jail term.

He said he hoped his case would help the mainland move forward on the road to the rule of law, and that Hong Kong people's support for him had demonstrated that justice was a core value held by the community.

'We [Hong Kong people] strictly abide by the principle of presumption of innocence, highly regard judicial procedures and oppose interference in the judiciary,' he said.

Accompanied by family members and friends, Ching bowed in front of the cameras with his wife Mary Lau Man-yee, sister Ching Shui-yee and brother Ching Hai to express gratitude to all those who had helped with his release.

They also presented a 'thank you' card to all Hong Kong people.

Ching said he hoped to continue his work reporting on China and planned to return to work after taking a month's paid leave from his newspaper. 'Right now, I'm still rather disoriented after being held for almost three years,' he said.

He called for the release of more prisoners on the mainland this year as the country celebrates the 30th anniversary of reform and opening up, and the Olympics.

Ching was released on February 5. He was first held in April 2005, but officially arrested on espionage charges that August.