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Authorities turn down request for defence lawyer for journalist Ching Cheong

(RSF/IFEX) - On 17 August 2005, the Beijing State Security Bureau notified the wife of detained journalist Ching Cheong that her application to hire a lawyer to defend her husband against charges of spying for Taiwan had been rejected. RSF has voiced outrage at the Chinese authorities' decision.

"This flat refusal is yet further evidence that the Chinese judicial system constantly flouts the most basic rights of prisoners of conscience, foremost of which is the right to be represented by a lawyer and to receive visits," the organisation said.

The Hong Kong-based correspondent for Singapore's "Straits Times" daily, Ching faces the possibility of life imprisonment. No date has yet been announced for his trial.

According to the official news agency Xinhua, the Beijing State Security Bureau formally charged Ching with spying on 5 August. Arrested on 22 April in Guangzhou, Ching is accused of selling economic, political and military information to Taiwanese agents between 2000 and 2005.

Aged 55, Ching had gone to Guangzhou to recover documents concerning former Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, who died in January. At the time of his death, Zhao was still under house arrest for negotiating with pro-democracy protesters in 1989.

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