Freed journalist Ching back at his desk

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am

Journalist Ching Cheong, who was detained on the mainland for almost three years, returned to work at the Hong Kong office of Singapore's The Straits Times yesterday.

'I am very happy to return to a job that I like so much,' Ching said as he stepped into the office at 11am, starting his first formal working day since his release on parole from a Guangzhou prison on February 5. 'I have been in the news media for decades and I am really excited to come back.'

Ching, 58, who went back to the office last week to prepare for his return, said he hoped he was ready to work again, adding that his health had improved a lot.

During his time in detention he suffered from an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and stomach ailments.

He said he planned to stay in Hong Kong to write commentaries and analyses on China affairs, but had yet to discuss specific topics to be covered with his employer.

Ching was detained on the mainland in April 2005 and jailed for five years by a Beijing court in August 2006 on charges of spying for Taiwan. He said he did not have any plans to go to the mainland to work in the near future but would be eager to do so when the opportunity arose.

'I will strive for the chance to go if there is one. I enjoy being on the frontline,' he said of the possibility of covering news related to this year's Beijing Olympic Games in August, although noting that press registration to enter Games venues had already closed.

Asked twice whether he would be more cautious when handling mainland news in the future, Ching, who has insisted he was innocent of the charges levelled against him, first asked: 'What is meant by more cautious?' and then said: 'You will know when you read my coming articles.'

He hesitated for a few seconds when asked to comment on last week's jailing of mainland human rights activist Hu Jia for 31/2 years on subversion charges, before saying he might write articles later to express his thoughts about the incident.