Journalist Ching Cheong is fighting for his conviction of spying for Taiwan to be dropped in his appeal, not just for a more lenient sentence, his wife said yesterday. Mary Lau Man-yee said up to six different sources had hinted to her that Ching had a good chance of being released on medical parole after his appeal. Her remarks came after legal experts offered different advice on the appeal, ranging from accepting a less severe offence, such as leaking state secrets, to arguing that Ching had not intended to spy. At a seminar organised by Ching's university friends, Lau, a fellow journalist, said her husband was facing growing psychological pressure and had lost a lot of weight. She said his hypertension had worsened and he had to be attended by doctors from time to time. While Lau was unsure when the appeal would be heard, she said she had heard from different people, whom she declined to name, that Ching had a good chance of being released on medical parole. But she said: 'Our aim is still fighting to get rid of the spy conviction,' although she admitted that options like appealing for a shorter sentence or switching to other charges would also be considered. Last week, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said Ching's appeal had been examined by a Beijing court. Lau quoted the Hong Kong-based centre as saying that lawyers would challenge the procedures where authorities allegedly forgot to put a seal on Ching's computer when seizing it for evidence. She was not sure if that procedural flaw could help free her husband. Johannes Chan Man-man, dean of the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Law, said the accusations, shown in the judgment leaked on the internet, were dubious and ill-founded. 'This is not just a trial of Ching Cheong. The appeal is also a huge challenge to the Chinese legal system and its reform,' he told the seminar. Ching, the chief China correspondent for The Straits Times of Singapore, lodged an appeal this month after being jailed for five years last month for providing top state secrets and military information to Taiwan's Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies. China law expert Ong Yew-kim said that mainland authorities had insufficient evidence to convict Ching for spying. He suggested settling the case in the form of a 'plea bargain', by changing the espionage charge to leaking state secrets by mistake. He believed this would result in a three-year jail term or less, enhancing Ching's chance of an early release. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, associate dean of City University's school of law, believed Ching would win a shorter sentence if lawyers focused on arguing that he did not spy deliberately. 'The key questions are whether Ching has done this deliberately and to what extent has the national interest been damaged,' she said.