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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08HONGKONG248 2008-02-06 09:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Hong Kong
Cable title:  

CHING CHEONG PAROLED, ARRIVES IN HONG KONG

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PINR PREL CH HK 
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1. (SBU) The PRC judiciary paroled on February 5 Ching
Cheong, a Hong Kong-based journalist for The Straits Times in
Singapore, after he completed about half of a five-year
sentence for selling "state secrets" to Taiwan. Ching
arrived back in Hong Kong the same day. (Note: Ching was
first detained in April 2005 during a visit to Guangzhou, and
was held for 16 months before his trial in a closed, Beijing
court in August 2006. End note.) Ching's early release
follows repeated calls from the Hong Kong government, as well
as Hong Kong journalists, human rights activists and the
international community. Ching has made no public
appearances since his return to Hong Kong, but he published a
hand-written (Chinese), open letter through the Hong Kong
Journalist Association's website (www.hkja.org.hk) expressing
his appreciation to the central and Hong Kong governments for
his release and his happiness over being reunited with his
family. Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang said he
wished Mr. Ching well and hoped his family would be happy to
spend the New Year with him.



2. (SBU) Ching arrived via train in Hong Kong on February 5,
just in time to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which begins
on February 7. Ching's family, who was reportedly not
notified of his release from prison until they received a
call from him following his arrival in Hong Kong, welcomed
his return. Ching's wife, Mary Lau, said Ching would rest
and spend the Lunar New Year with family and friends, and his
brother said that Ching is not expected to return to work
soon. The conditions governing his release are not yet clear.



3. (C) Comment: Ching Cheong's unexpected but welcome
release just before the Chinese New Year is good news to his
family and to many others in Hong Kong, including Chief
Executive Donald Tsang, who will likely receive a boost in
local confidence following public recognition of his personal
attention and behind-the-scenes pressure to get Ching
released. Ching's early release, while perhaps a ploy by the
central government to appear increasingly human in the months
leading up to the Olympics, has rekindled a larger debate
among local activists over Ching's arrest, conviction and
imprisonment, including calls for the central government to
define the term "state secrets," which journalists here
fervently and openly criticize as an afront to press freedom
for Hong Kong journalists who travel to the mainland. End
Comment.
Cunningham