Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Tsang says reporter's case was dealt with `promptly'

AFP , HANOI

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) said yesterday he had dealt "very promptly" with a petition concerning a Hong Kong journalist jailed in China on spying charges, after meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

Tsang, who met with Hu on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Hanoi, did not say whether he had specifically raised the case of 56-year-old Ching Cheong (程翔) with the Chinese leader.

But the chief executive of the southern Chinese territory told reporters: "This is a matter of priority. I dealt with it very promptly, as soon as I received the petition from Mrs Ching."

Ching's family and friends last week took to the streets of Hong Kong to urge Tsang to help overturn the five-year jail sentence against the journalist, the chief China writer for Singapore's Straits Times.

Holding a banner demanding a "just and open trial for Ching Cheong," his supporters marched to the government headquarters and handed a petition to Tsang, calling for a case review and better medical care for the journalist.

They said they hoped Tsang would raise the case with Hu.

But the Hong Kong leader remained vague about the details of his meeting with Hu, saying only, "Of course, I will not be able to talk in detail about what [transpired] between myself and the president."

"It's a matter of priority for Hong Kong. We have dealt with it expeditiously ... and we will follow it through," Tsang added.

Ching was sentenced to five years in jail on Aug. 31 for spying for Taiwan. The decision came after a swift closed trial in Beijing.

He had been held under house arrest since being detained last year and accused of handing state secrets to Taiwan.

In its verdict, the Beijing court said Ching had passed on information -- some of it top secret -- to two people from a Taiwanese foundation who were in fact deputies of an intelligence agency.

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