'The important thing is not to get too emotionally involved' Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday defended the government's handling of the case of detained journalist Ching Cheong, saying he had acted immediately upon hearing his story. Speaking after the launch of his election campaign, Mr Tsang said he was concerned about all Hong Kong people arrested on the mainland but that the government had to respect the 'one country, two systems' principle and could not interfere in the mainland legal system. Mr Tsang's comments came as a dozen Hong Kong Journalists' Association members staged a march from Chater Garden to the Central Government Offices and the central government's liaison office urging the government to ensure Ching's interests as a Hong Kong permanent resident were protected. They asked mainland authorities to handle the case in a fair, open and legal manner. Association spokeswoman Mak Yin-ting said the government was wrong to say its involvement would amount to interference in the mainland legal system. Mak said the international press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres would initiate a signature campaign in the next day or two to seek Ching's release. Asked why he turned down a meeting with Ching's journalist wife, Mary Lau, when he was acting chief executive, Mr Tsang said the Chief Executive's Office received dozens of requests for meetings every week and he could not meet every one. 'I always feel for people who get into trouble on the mainland,' he said. 'What is important is not meetings but action. I took action immediately, heard the complaints, the story and immediately referred it to the secretary for security and asked him to find out what it was all about.' Mr Tsang said the government immediately extended help to Lau and 'mobilised our office in Beijing to work in tandem'. 'The most important thing is not to get too emotionally involved ... but find out the facts and help as much as we can. That is what I tried to do.' Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said the Hong Kong government ought to take a more active role in the Ching case. 'We do not want to interfere in the mainland legal system but the Hong Kong government owes a duty to all the people of Hong Kong to follow up on this case and ensure Mr Ching's personal rights are respected, his wife and relatives can meet him and he has legal representation,' she said. Speaking at a regular briefing in Beijing yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan rejected accusations that Ching's arrest signalled Beijing's tightened control over the media. He maintained that mainland laws provided sufficient legal protection for journalists and alleged that what Ching did was beyond normal journalistic work. Mr Kong confirmed that Zhao Yan, a mainland researcher who worked for the Beijing Bureau of The New York Times, had been handed over to prosecutors. His case was moved to the Beijing No 2 People's Procuratorate on May 20 for 'further investigation and prosecution', Mr Kong said. Zhao's lawyer earlier said Zhao was detained last September for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners.