Mainland prison authorities have received a petition from Ching Cheong's family asking for early medical parole for the jailed Hong Kong journalist or for him to serve his sentence in a Guangdong prison. Ching's wife, Mary Lau Man-yee, said yesterday the Dahongmen detention centre in Beijing, where the petition was submitted, had confirmed receipt of the letter. Earlier attempts to submit the petition to a Beijing court were rebuffed and another sent by mail never arrived. Ching's family has also sent medical reports about his condition to Beijing and will send another batch this week. The journalist has been in detention for 20 months. His elder brother, Ching Hai, who was in the Beijing Higher People's Court for Ching's brief appeal hearing last month, said: 'He was not in good health. He has lost a lot of weight. He looked a lot older and he appeared to be tired.' Lau, a fellow journalist, said: 'It's difficult to say whether we should be optimistic or not.' She said the petition would be passed to the Prisons Management Department and Ching would be given a medical examination. Last month, the Beijing Higher People's Court upheld the verdict of a lower court, which in August found Ching, 56, chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Times, guilty of spying for Taiwan and jailed him for five years. The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said Ching was likely to be transferred this week to a laogai - reform through labour - centre in Beijing, where he would be allowed to apply for release on medical parole. The Hong Kong Journalists Association yesterday collected 1,812 signatures from journalists and members of the public in Causeway Bay for a petition seeking medical parole for Ching. It will collect signatures online until Thursday. The petition will be given to the Hong Kong government on Friday, Ching's birthday. Two similar petitions have been passed to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen this month.