HONG KONG—After the Chinese communist regime sentenced Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong to five years imprisonment for espionage, the Ching Cheong Incident Concern Group held a seminar on September 18 to discuss the case. In the seminar law experts analyzed the Ching Cheong case from legal perspectives and challenged the legitimacy of the conviction.
According to Mr. Ong Yew Kim, China Law Researcher of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Beijing court had insufficient evidence to convict Ching. “The China Public Security Bureau oversaw Ching's case.” said Ong, “But it is this same bureau that provided the evidence in the case and made the conviction. This is so unreasonable.”
Ong also said that the verdict document did not provide any evidence to prove that the Taiwan-based Foundation of International and Cross-Strait Studies, to which Ching was accused of selling information, is an espionage organization.
Professor Johannes Chan, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, analyzed the verdict document from the perspective of common law. He pointed out that five things have to be proved to justify the conviction of espionage.
One, the Foundation of International and Cross-strait Studies has to be verified as a spy organization. Two, it must be shown that Ching Cheong accepted tasks assigned by the foundation or its agency. Three, it must be proven such tasks included providing state confidential information to the foundation or its members. Four, prosecutors must show that when providing such information to the foundation, Ching Cheong knew it was a spy organization. Fifth and finally, it must be proven that Ching Cheong was aware that the information he provided was of a confidential nature.
Chan said that the Chinese court's conviction is baseless as it passed none of the above five tests. He said, “Ching Cheong paid Wang Ying 300 Singapore Dollar (US $188.8) for each article she wrote. Three hundred Singapore dollars for state secretes? It seems such secrets are really cheap.”
Chan believes that appealing is the best way to proceed for now. He expressed his wish that Ching could get a fair trial from the court of appeal. “A trial in the Court of Appeal is not only a trial for Ching Cheong, but also a test for the whole legal system of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Chan.
Ching's wife, Mary Lau Man-yee, also attended the seminar. Lau said that her family had appealed to the court to drop the charges and release Ching. The new evidence for the appeal provided by Ching's family includes the mistakes China made in collecting evidence.
As the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy indicated earlier, the major source of evidence in Ching's case was deleted documents that the Beijing Huaxia Evidence Identification Center recovered from Ching's computer. But the Identification Center did not abide by the Public Security Bureau standards when handling Ching's computer.
Instead of being sealed until sent to the center's investigators, as regulated, Ching's computer was open to access by many people after Ching was arrested. It means that many people had the chance to change the information in the computer. So it is not admissible that the court used the information as key evidence against Ching. Lau said that she will plead for Ching based on the inadmissibility of this evidence.