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China Charges Hong Kong Journalist with Espionage

China has formally charged a Hong Kong reporter working for a Singapore newspaper with spying for Taiwan. Journalist groups say the charges are unfounded and another example of China's restriction on press freedom.

China's state media announced Friday that Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong journalist under house arrest since April, has been formally charged with spying for Taiwan.

China's Xinhua News Agency says Mr. Ching, the chief China correspondent for the Singapore Straits Times newspaper, has confessed to being a spy and to purchasing top secret information about China's political, economic and military affairs.

Media rights groups deplore the arrest.

Shawn Crispin, an Asia consultant for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, says the charges against Mr. Ching are false, and he should be released immediately.

"The state often times brings anti-state charges, or inciting subversion against state authorities charges against journalists," he said. "And, this is obviously their heavy-handed attempt to control the flow of information, to make sure that no political dissent to the current regime rises up amongst the population."

Mr. Ching's wife, Mary Lau, insists her husband is innocent. She says he was arrested after attempting to get transcripts from an interview with former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, a man who opposed China's military crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

China's state media say Taiwan authorities recruited the reporter in early 2000, and he sold top-secret information to Taipei for hundreds-of-thousands of dollars.

Mr. Ching was detained in April, interrogated, and held under house arrest. This is the first time Beijing has given any details of his case.

He is the second Chinese journalist working for a foreign newspaper in China to be arrested in the past year.

In October, a Chinese researcher at The New York Times' Beijing bureau was charged with "divulging state secrets." The researcher allegedly told The New York Times that former President Jiang Zemin would retire from China's Central Military Commission before his retirement was officially announced.