Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, who is being held by the mainland authorities for alleged spying, spoke earlier this year of how he was once nearly arrested for his reporting there and had to be saved by his old boss. The interview with RTHK, broadcast last night, was carried out a month before his detention by mainland authorities in April. In it, The Strait Times of Singapore correspondent talked about his experiences covering news on the mainland over the past two decades. Ching said reporting on the mainland had been like walking in a minefield at the start of his career, when he was a correspondent for the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po. 'At the beginning of the 1980s, even a picture of an ordinary alleyway could qualify as classified information. This example demonstrates that when covering news in that environment it was very easy to step on the line and violate a taboo,' he said. Ching revealed he once had a very close shave with the mainland authorities during that period, which he did not detail. 'At the time, the Chinese government considered it a major theft of secret information and wanted to deal with me,' he said. 'My boss went to Beijing to meet the leaders and told them that journalists seeking information was right and proper ... his duty. 'As long as it did not involve any illegal action during the news gathering, the news story he returned with should be down to his ability.' Ching also believed that good news stories on the mainland would come out if journalists stuck to their ethics. 'In this secret-filled place, if you want to expose what's going on, your ethics are very important. There should be absolutely no money involved during the news-gathering process,' he said. Ching defended the need to criticise the mainland. 'The views and criticisms we level at China are out of our desire to see the country getting better. As my old boss has said, loving your country does not mean singing songs of praise about it,' he said. Ching said a journalist would be in a 'comparatively undefeated position' when money or favours were not involved. Last night's screening of the interview came a day after the new chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, said Beijing was concerned about the detention and was prepared to act swiftly on it.