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China court sentences Singapore reporter to five years for espionage

[JURIST] Ching Cheong [advocacy website; Wikipedia profile], chief China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times [media website], was sentenced to five years in jail by a Chinese court on Thursday after being convicted on charges of selling state secrets and spying for Taiwan [BBC report]. In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered the confiscation of $37,500 worth of Ching's property and the suspension of his political rights for one year. Ching's wife, Lau, maintains her husband's innocence and suspects that he has been accused of stealing state secrets because he obtained politically sensitive unpublished interviews with late Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang [Wikipedia profile], who was purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen massacre [BBC backgrounder]. Ching's family is considering an appeal.

The two week long trial [JURIST report], held behind closed doors, sparked concern among human rights groups and journalists who see this as yet another high-profile step taken by Chinese authorities in recent months in an effort to silence dissent in China [JURIST news archive]. The actions include the conviction [JURIST report] of Zhao Yan [HRIC profile, PDF], a former New York Times researcher, on fraud charges but who was also initially indicted for providing state secrets [JURIST report] to foreigners, a crackdown on US Internet companies that prompted them to be accused [JURIST report] in the West of complying with so-called "Internet oppression", and the jailing of Chinese journalists [JURIST report] for inciting subversion. Aljazeera has more.

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