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Lawyer sees HK journalist's appeal in China in Nov

Written by: Staff
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HONG KONG, Oct 27 (Reuters) An appeal by a Chinese-born Singapore newspaper journalist jailed in China on spying charges is likely to be heard behind closed doors in late November, his lawyer told Hong Kong's TVB television today.

Ching Cheong, Hong Kong-based China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, has been behind bars since April 2005. In August this year a Beijing court sentenced him to five years in prison and confiscated property worth 300,000 yuan (,700).

''Under legal procedures they are not obliged to make it an open hearing. The hearing is likely to take place at the end of November,'' lawyer He Peihua told TVB after meeting Ching in prison today.

''He is in good spirits, but his health is probably a little worse than before,'' He added.

Ching, 56, was convicted of spying for Taiwan, the self-ruled island over which Beijing claims sovereignty. He was detained in the southern province of Guangdong where, his wife said, he had travelled to collect documents relating to disgraced former Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang.

At the time of the sentencing, the parent company of Ching's employer, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd appealed to the Chinese authorities to ''show leniency and compassion'' to Ching, who suffers from high blood pressure.

China is the world's leading jailer of journalists, with at least 32 in custody and another 50 Internet campaigners also in prison, rights group Reporters Without Borders says.

Ching, like many Hong Kong residents, holds a passport of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as well as a British National (Overseas) passport issued in the waning days of British colonial rule. He is a permanent resident of Singapore.

REUTERS AB VV1309

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