Released reporter keen to cover Olympics, despite family's fears

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am

Freed journalist Ching Cheong wants to go to Beijing to cover the Olympics, as he continues his career in reporting China's news after being released from a mainland prison.

He would also like to help resolve any crisis between the mainland and Taiwan if war broke out.

'The Olympics has been the Chinese people's dream for a century,' he said.

'It marks the country's stepping out from the old era and the first step of national revival. For Chinese people who always keep national affairs in mind, it is a big event.'

Seventeen days after his release from a Guangzhou prison, Ching spoke to the South China Morning Post at his house in Kam Tin, Yuen Long. Known for his patriotism, the chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Times said he was eager to return to the mainland for news reporting.

'When I learned that the deadline for reporters to register for Olympic events had passed, I was really disappointed. But I still hope to go and cover related news if I have the chance.'

Although he still holds a home return permit, Ching, who was convicted of spying for Taiwan and was held for almost three years, said he was not certain when he could work on the mainland again.

'When I cross the border, they can still say, 'Sorry',' he said. 'I wish I could go tomorrow, but it is not my decision.'

He does not have a concrete work plan and will fly to Singapore next week to discuss his posting with the newspaper.

But one thing he insists on is to stay on the front line of reporting, despite his family saying they were worried about any future visits to the mainland.

'The life of a journalist is on the front line.

'It is from where you derive your energy, satisfaction and aspiration,' the 58-year-old journalist said.

Ching said he would retain ties with various organisations on both sides of the strait, although his charges were related to his writing for a Taiwanese think-tank.

'If there is a crisis, my instinct will drive me to prevent warfare across the strait,' he said. 'When you perceive the situation is dangerous, anyone who has the ability and commitment should take all the actions he can to mitigate the danger for the country.'

He said his imprisonment was a result of 'a too deep affection for China', but he paused when asked about the case.

'It is not my style to conceal things. I am sorry but please understand my freedom is very fragile now.'

Ching, who was released early after serving 21/2 years of a five-year term, said he needed to speak with caution because the legal implications of his parole were not clear. It might be better to discuss the case after the parole period ended, he said.