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Hong Kong reporter detained by Chinese authorities

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Hong Kong reporter detained by Chinese authorities

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has grave concerns over a Hong Kong journalist's arrest and detention in Guangzhou, China.

According to information from IFJ affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA), Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Times newspaper, was apprehended by security agents on April 22, 2005 while waiting to meet a source in Guangzhou, China.

"The IFJ is calling on Chinese authorities to immediately release Ching Cheong," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

It is alleged that Cheong's detention is in connection to a government investigation preventing the publication of secret interviews of Zhao Ziyang, the former premier and party chief who opposed the Tiananmen massacre and died in January after nearly 16 years under house arrest.

Mary Lau, Cheong's wife, kept Cheong's detention a secret in the hope of his release after she was threatened by Chinese authorities not to go public about his arrest.

Lau decided to go public after mainland officials told her that the Chinese Government intended to charge him with "stealing core state secrets".

Cheong's arrest follows the arrest of Zhao Yan, researcher for the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, on September 16, 2004. Zhao Yan has been held incommunicado without trial since his arrest.

While it is common for the Chinese Government to jail Chinese journalists, in the past the government has refrained from jailing foreign journalists and those employed by foreign news agencies.

The consequence of Cheong's and Zhao Yan's arrests has the potential to have a chilling effect on foreign news operations in China.

"This latest crackdown by Chinese authorities on foreign journalists and media outlets is indicative of their systematic policy of silencing the media," said Warren.

The Straits Times has failed to report Cheong's detention but released a written statement that Cheong is "assisting security authorities in Beijing with an investigation into a matter not related to the Straits Times." As told to them by the Chinese Embassy in Singapore.

Cheong, a Hong Kong citizen and legal resident of Singapore, is a well-respected and experienced journalist covering China.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.

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