The hopes of Ching Cheong and his family that the veteran journalist would be freed were dashed in just 15 minutes yesterday. Ching and his supporters had hoped the Beijing Higher People's Court would carefully review an appeal application before deciding whether to overturn the five-year sentence for spying imposed in August. But there was no review of evidence or examination of witnesses. The defendant, lawyers and family were simply summoned to witness the delivery of the verdict. The lawyers could only acknowledge that they respected the ruling. In Hong Kong, Ching's wife, Mary Lau Man-yee, said she was 'very angry' when she heard the news, but later calmed down and was concentrating on drafting a petition. Ching's elder brother, Ching Hai, said the journalist appeared downcast in court. 'I could not see his face, he sat with his back towards us. But we could see that he was not in good health when he entered the courtroom. He has lost a lot of weight. He looked a lot older, and he appeared to be tired and unhappy - his condition was worse than we expected.' As with the August trial, the proceedings were closed to the press. About a dozen reporters braved the cold to wait outside. But even there, the sensitive nature of the case made the guards jumpy. 'You are not allowed to film the front door. How dare you keep filming?' one yelled at a cameraman waiting for key players to emerge. In Hong Kong, Lau appeared composed at a press conference, flanked by the president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Serenade Woo Lai-wan, Ching Cheong Incident Concern Group spokesman Hui Tin-fook and China law expert Ong Yew-kim. The mood of the speakers was heavy and sombre as they vowed to keep fighting, and Mr Ong appeared close to tears as he pronounced himself 'extremely disappointed' at the verdict. Lau said she had needed tranquilisers to help her sleep the night before. 'I had an uneasy mind for hours. I couldn't calm myself enough to face the crowds of journalists thronging in front of my home,' she said, referring to the reporters eager to get her response yesterday. Still insisting her husband of 20 years was innocent, Lau said: 'There's still hope in the world ... and we will continue to fight for his release.' Her first action in that fight was to join a rally held by family members and the journalists association in Chater Garden last night.