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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ST Correspondent Detained by PRC

(directly from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/29/AR2005052900986.html )

Hong Kong Reporter Being Held By China
Writer Sought Records Of Secret Interviews
By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, May 30, 2005; Page A01

HONG KONG -- China has detained a prominent member of Hong Kong's international press corps who traveled to the mainland to obtain a collection of secret interviews with a Communist leader purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Security agents apprehended Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, on April 22 in the southern city of Guangzhou, where he was scheduled to meet a source who had promised to give him a copy of the politically sensitive manuscript, according to the journalist's wife, Mary Lau.

Lau said Chinese authorities warned her and the Straits Times not to disclose her husband's detention, and she stayed silent for weeks in the hope he would be released. She said she decided to go public last week after a mainland official told her privately that the government was preparing to charge him with "stealing core state secrets."

If charged, Ching would be the second journalist for a foreign newspaper arrested by the government of President Hu Jintao in the past year. Zhao Yan, a researcher in the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, was arrested by the State Security Ministry in September on similar charges and has been held incommunicado without trial since.

The arrests could have a chilling effect on foreign news operations in China. The Chinese government often jails Chinese journalists and writers -- the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says there are more journalists in prison in China than anywhere else in the world -- but in the past it has generally refrained from arresting individuals employed by foreign news agencies.

The Straits Times, which has not reported the detention of its correspondent, said in a written statement Sunday that it had been told by the Chinese Embassy in Singapore that Ching "is assisting security authorities in Beijing with an investigation into a matter not related to the Straits Times."

"Ching Cheong has served us with distinction as a very well-informed correspondent and analyst," the newspaper added. "We have no cause to doubt that throughout his stint of reporting and commenting on China, he has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism."
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Ching, 55, a Hong Kong citizen and a permanent legal resident of Singapore, is widely considered one of the most knowledgeable correspondents covering China, and he enjoys extensive contacts in the government and military developed over a 31-year career.

His detention could prompt an outcry in Hong Kong, where residents have complained since the return of the former British colony to Chinese rule in 1997 about their lack of consular protections when traveling on the mainland. Though China has granted Hong Kong residents some special rights and privileges, they are treated as Chinese citizens under international law.

In his writings and in conversations, Ching has developed a reputation as a Chinese nationalist who favors the mainland's unification with Taiwan and objects to U.S. interference in the Taiwan Strait. He spent 15 years working for Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong newspaper with close ties to the Communist Party, but resigned in protest with 40 other journalists after the violent 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

Ching's detention appears to be related to a high-priority government investigation aimed at preventing the publication of a series of secret interviews conducted over the past several years with Zhao Ziyang, the former premier and party chief who opposed the Tiananmen massacre and died in January after nearly 16 years under house arrest.

What Zhao said in those interviews is unknown, but months after his death, China's Communist leaders appear worried that his words might pose a threat to the party's grip on power by reviving memories of the Tiananmen Square massacre and triggering fresh demands for democratic reform.

The interviews were conducted by Zong Fengmin, a retired party official and longtime associate of Zhao's who managed to visit the fallen leader regularly while he was under house arrest.

In a memoir published last year, Zong quoted briefly from his interviews with Zhao and indicated he was preparing a second book titled, "Conversations with Zhao Ziyang in House Arrest." Ching was the first journalist to obtain Zong's memoir and write about Zhao's remarks.

Reached by telephone in Beijing, Zong confirmed the government had pressured him not to publish a book based on his conversations with Zhao. He said he had not finalized the manuscript and expressed surprise that Ching might have been detained for trying to obtain it. He denied ever meeting Ching in person.

Xiang Chuxin, Zong's publisher, said Chinese intelligence agents visited him at his apartment in Hong Kong in October and asked polite questions about Zong's memoir. But after Zhao's death on Jan. 17, police detained him in the southern city of Shenzhen and interrogated him for several hours in an attempt to discover who brought him the book, he said.

Police also placed one of Xiang's mainland employees, Huang Wei, under house arrest for several weeks. Reached by phone, she said she gave a copy of the memoir to Ching at Zong's request. She also said she sent text messages to Ching's cell phone pleading for help while trying to evade the authorities, but added the police never asked about him when questioning her.

Lau said her husband learned of Zong's second manuscript late last year and met with Zong's editor not long after Zhao's death. At the time, Zong's editor wanted to publish the manuscript but was worried security agents would intercept it if he attempted to use the same people who published Zong's memoir, she said. Ching then agreed to help bring the manuscript to Hong Kong, Lau said.

Lau said her husband told her a source attempted to e-mail the document to him several times without success. Then, in late April, he received a call from someone asking him to travel to Guangzhou to pick up the manuscript, she said.

Lau said Ching never disclosed the identity of the source to her and that she suspected Chinese security agents might have tricked him into traveling to the mainland. A day after he was detained, she said, he called her and arranged for his laptop computer to be brought to the mainland, too.

Security agents have allowed Ching to call her four more times, she said. In the latest call, on Sunday morning, Ching urged her not to tell reporters about his detention. But when a security agent picked up the phone and invited Lau to come to Beijing to see her husband, he grabbed the phone and told her to stay in Hong Kong, she said.

"He told me to work on his behalf in Hong Kong," Lau said. "He told me to visit his mother and father more."


Blogger Koh said...

I am at pains to wonder how a form of government so utterly unaccountable can still be seen to be the best form of government for China. But that is merely the end logic to supporting a form of government ( i.e. the best imperial traditions!), which defines the "greater good" of an entire civilisation as whatever is advocated by a very small class of elites ( confucianist xiu cai then, capitalist-communist appratchiks now), considers every failing of government to be merely a matter of failure of the individual civil servant's morality, regards the very top person in government (i.e emperor, chairman of CCP ) as the sole check on its own failings ( i.e. petitions to capital), and adopts a fatalistic view towards government failings (i.e. "will of heaven"). What moral authority China has in the world, indeed.

And how ironic that the victim should be a journalist working for a major daily newspaper of a country that isn't exactly a shining beacon when it comes to freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Perhaps this incident will well remind overseas chinese everywhere who enjoy greater liberties than their mainland counterparts just how deluded they are in their belief that we are dealing with reasonable people here. We are not. Economic reforms notwithstanding, we are dealing with a barbaric and monstrous government- a shameful testament to how the barbarism of Chinese politics continues to be a blight upon a great civilisation.

May 31, 2005 9:09 pm  
Blogger Thrasymachus said...

Based on the politic intensity and situation China has with the rest of the world, they are xenophobic over all things "spying". They are eager to show the world of their anti-spy measures and policies.

Maybe Ching is just at the wrong place at the wrong time, taking on a wrong issue of the Tiananmen Papers...

June 30, 2005 6:10 pm  
Blogger James Fletcher Baxter said...

"...the creative process is a choicemaking process."

The missing element in every human 'solution' is an
accurate definition of the creature. The way we define
'human' determines our view of self, others, relationships,
institutions, life, and future. Important? Only the Creator
who made us in His own image is qualified to define us
accurately. Choose wisely...there are results.

Man is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes his
definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall that his
other features are but vehicles of experience intent on
the development of perceptive awareness and the
following acts of decision. Note that the products of
man cannot define him for they are the fruit of the
discerning choice-making process and include the
cognition of self, the utility of experience, the
development of value-measuring systems and language,
and the acculturation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however marvelous
to behold, deserve neither awe nor idolatry, for man, not
his contrivance, is earth's own highest expression of the
creative process.

Man is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and significant
act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean fulcrum upon
which man levers and redirects the forces of cause and
effect to an elected level of quality and diversity.
Further, it orients him toward a natural environmental
opportunity, freedom, and bestows earth's title, The
Choicemaker, on his singular and plural brow.

Deterministic systems, ideological symbols of abdication
by man from his natural role as earth's Choicemaker,
inevitably degenerate into collectivism; the negation of
singularity, they become a conglomerate plural-based
system of measuring human value. Blunting an awareness
of diversity, blurring alternatives, and limiting the
selective creative process, they are self-relegated to
a passive and circular regression.

July 01, 2005 12:43 pm  

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