Veteran Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong has retired. (Veteran Hong Kong Journalist, Once Jailed, Calls it Quits)
Ching was arrested and convicted on trumped up charges by China in 2005. His arrest led to an outpouring of support from journalism groups around the world, including the SPJ. (This happened just as I was back in Hong Kong covering another event. What started out as a brief vacation to visit friends became days of whirlwind activities in support of Ching.)
Ching was eventually released after serving three of the five years of his sentence.
The arrest was a major embarrassment for the Hong Kong government. For all its statements of wanting to protect its citizens, the leadership of the government was disturbingly silent on the Ching case. The lack of action by the Hong Kong government and the aggressive nature of the mainland China government has many Hong Kong journalists nervous about what might happen to them if their reporting upsets Beijing.
Ching had previously been deputy editor in chief of Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong newspaper long regarded as a mouthpiece for the Communist Party. He resigned along with several other journalists in protest after the events in Tiananmen. He was allegedly lured over the border to the southern city of Guangzhou, where he was scheduled to meet a source who had promised to give him a copy of a series of politically sensitive interviews with Zhao. The promise was a ruse.
After months in prison Ching was ultimately given a five-year prison sentence and Chinese-language newspapers attempted to discredit him by falsely reporting he had taken the Taiwanese funds to finance a mistress. He was freed after more than 1,000 days in prison. He declines to divulge the details of his arrest today, saying he remains on parole and doesn’t want to violate the terms, even though he lives in Hong Kong and presumably would be outside the clutches of Beijing.
Despite new rules that went into place as a result of the the 2008 Olympics, journalists are still under constant attack and intimidation. And local journalists are hit harder than foreign reporters.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China just reported harassment by government officials who cited unwritten rules.
The Committee to Protect Journalists points out that the government seems to also be focusing on freelancers. (CPJ’s 2009 prison census: Freelance journalists under fire).
Bloggers and Internet activists are also under pressure. Huang Qi was sentenced to three years in jail on charges of holding state secrets. (The only problem is that even mentioning the travels of government leaders is considered a state secret. So this charge is a good catch-all to toss who ever the government wants into jail.)
And the list goes on.