Media and press freedom groups have renewed their condemnation of the detention of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, whose imprisonment on the mainland entered its sixth month yesterday. Local and foreign journalists' bodies called for Ching, China correspondent for the Singapore newspaper, The Straits Times, to be given access to a lawyer and to his relatives, particularly his wife, journalist Mary Lau Man-yee. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on officials to release Ching immediately. 'It is outrageous that China is holding Ching without charge or access to counsel in violation of its international commitments to safeguard justice' said committee executive director Ann Cooper. 'The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed, guarantees prisoners prompt access to defence counsel. In Ching's case, national security charges have been used to deny him access to a lawyer during the pre-trial investigation period, in violation of the covenant.' Ching, detained in Guangzhou on April 22, was only formally arrested by the State Security Bureau on August 5. He is accused of spying for Taiwan's intelligence agency from 2000 to March this year. Lau was told in mid-August that her husband would not be allowed to appoint a lawyer for the time being. The Straits Times on Tuesday was notified by the State Council Information Office that Ching was in good health and spirits, and his case would be handled according to the law. Hong Kong Journalists' Association chairwoman Cheung Ping-ling called for Ching's immediate release if mainland officials do not have sufficient evidence against him. If there was a trial, it must be conducted fairly and openly. Reporters Without Borders voiced its outrage at the continued detention, accusing the Chinese authorities of keeping him 'in solitary confinement on a trumped-up charge of spying for Taiwan which the Chinese authorities have been trying to bolster by means of smear campaigns against him and his family'. More than 15,000 people have signed an international petition for Ching's release.