The spying case of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong has sent shocks to the Hong Kong community. The seasoned journalist known for his patriotism was sentenced to jail for five years by the course in China on charges of spying. Upon hearing the verdict, a sense of frustration and pessimism prevails, espescially among the journalists here, and those having believed that China is well on the way to modernity.
First of all, the trial is clouded in secrecy. No evidence is clearly presented and there is no clear explanation of why Ching is accused of spying and what intelligence he has leaked.
Secondly, there is contradiction in the court papers. The court says Ching surrendered himself, which appears to be a total fabrication. Ching did not surrender but was arrested when visiting China. Also, in the first court paper issued, Ching was accused of leaking top secret state information. In the second court paper, the intelligence he leaked was classified as secret only.
I found out because of the case, that in China there are three classifications of “secrecy” of state intelligence. The top secret goes to state information such as military move, important diplomatic and economic information, and the state leaders’ STATE OF HEALTH.
The second level of secrecy goes to information such as news of resignation of the state leaders, their temperaments and expertise.
The third level of secrecy goes to news of plagues, corruption of local officials, etc.
So it is obvious that if you are a journalist in Hong Kong or China, you can easily step into the trap and report something that belongs to state secrets and land in the jail like Ching Cheong. No wonder the sentence of Ching Cheong has sent a chilling shock to the local journalists.
Hong Kong has been a major outpost in reporting China news of depth and a wide range of topics. If Hong Kong’s journalists are silenced because of the threat of spy charges, the news about China are doomed to be unexciting and more pro-government.