A mainland court may deliver a verdict in the spying case against Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong as early as next week, a human rights group in the city said yesterday. The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said Ching was likely to be sentenced on Monday and that, based on precedent and 'important information' it had received, the sentence would be lenient. Ching, 55, the Hong Kong-based China correspondent of Singapore newspaper The Strait Times, has been held without trial for more than 14 months. He was detained when he travelled to Guangzhou to collect transcripts of interviews conducted by Zong Fengming, a former party official and long-time associate of late Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang. Four months later he was formally charged with spying for Taiwan. A well-placed source said Beijing's Second Intermediate People's Court had accepted Ching's case on May 9. In an open letter to visiting Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Jia Qinglin , the Ching Cheong Incident Concern Group urged mainland authorities to handle his case with leniency. 'If Ching is punished due to controversial activities in his journalistic work, it will be detrimental to Hong Kong's trust in the mainland,' it said.