The decision is taken after Ching Cheong is sentenced to five years' jail by a Beijing court The family of Ching Cheong decided to lodge an appeal against the verdict after a Beijing court yesterday found the Hong Kong-based journalist guilty of spying for Taiwan and jailed him for five years. Ching, 56, chief China correspondent for Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times, was also stripped of his political rights for a year and had personal property worth 300,000 yuan confiscated. The sentencing lasted just 20 minutes at Beijing No2 Intermediate People's Court. Ching's two sisters, who were present, offered no comment afterwards. The family later issued a statement calling the verdict 'very serious, unbelievable and extremely regrettable'. They added that it would undermine not only the work of journalists, but also the ongoing research initiatives undertaken by mainland government departments as well as academic exchanges across the Taiwan Strait. Ching's wife, journalist Mary Lau Man-yee, said the family would lodge an appeal against the verdict after discussion with lawyers. 'I was shocked by the court decision and find the accusation unbelievable,' she said. The application would be lodged after the lawyers completed the relevant paperwork. Ching's verdict triggered an outcry among his supporters in Hong Kong. The Ching Cheong Incident Concern Group said it was shocked and challenged the lack of transparency in Beijing's handling of the case. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, from whom the family has sought assistance, said the Hong Kong government was not in a position to comment on the details of the case, while pledging to continue to stay in touch with Ching's family and provide help. Further details on Ching's charges were only revealed by Xinhua yesterday, about 16 months after the veteran journalist, known among his friends as a long-time patriot, was detained during a trip to Guangzhou in April last year. Ching was found guilty of sending state secrets and intelligence to a Taiwanese foundation between May 2004 and April last year in exchange for 300,000 yuan, which he received using a fake name, Xinhua said. According to the dispatch, Ching became acquainted with two agents, surnamed Xue and Dai, at a forum when he was a Taiwan correspondent for The Straits Times. 'With full knowledge that foundation is a spy organisation, and that Xue and Dai are agents for the spy organisation, he still faxed and e-mailed written material that contains state secrets and intelligence provided by people from Beijing and other places to Xue and Dai as requested by the assignments they gave to him,' Xinhua quoted the verdict as saying. The news agency said the sentence was lenient after taking into account Ching's co-operation in providing details of his espionage activities and handing over his laptop computer as evidence. The concern group insisted Ching had pleaded not guilty to the charge. The family's statement also said Ching had taken part in various academic exchange programmes. He could not have any knowledge of the nature of the Taiwanese foundation referred to as a 'spy agency' in the Xinhua report. Neither the Xinhua report nor the family statement identified the institute. But the Taipei-based Foundation on International and Cross Strait Studies confirmed yesterday Ching had taken part in some of its academic seminars. But it denied it was a spy agency and said it never asked Ching to write any reports. Ching's family also said: 'The foundation has long-term and high-level contacts with various departments and academic institutes on the mainland. Those contacts did not stop even after the arrest of Ching Cheong.' The family said that Xu Chongde , a Chinese legal professor and Basic Law drafter, had also visited the foundation early this year. Wife of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Lu Jianhua , Qu Liqiu , said she was shocked by the verdict.