Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Beiging Frees Writer

China released Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong from prison as abruptly as it arrested him three years ago on espionage charges.

Mr. Ching, a Hong Kong-based correspondent for the Straits Times of Singapore, was arrested in April 2005 while visiting Guangzhou, a city in China's industrial south, near Hong Kong.At the time of his arrest, Mr. Ching was believed to be gathering material about former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, who sympathized with student demonstrators during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. In August 2006, after a one-day trial, he was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of spying for Taiwan.

Well-connected friends made appeals on behalf of Mr. Ching, now 58 years old and in ailing health, including industrialist Henry Fok, who died in 2006, and Allen Lee, a former Hong Kong delegate to China's legislature, the National People's Congress. Beijing issued no statement about Mr. Ching's release.

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