CHINA: Press conferences in ten cities show international concern for jailed journalist

Los Angeles organizers present a video clip of Ching Cheong's wife, urge viewers to call for the jailed reporter's release

By Amanda Natividad
Contributing Writer

Friday, July 21, 2006

Los Angeles --- Media activists gathered yesterday to show their support for jailed Straits Times reporter Ching Cheong in downtown Los Angeles.

Organizers from the Visual Artists Guild (VAG), a non-profit organization that fights for freedom of expression, presented a video of Ching's wife, reporter Mary Lau, appealing for her husband's release. A chief correspondent for China, Ching was accused of using money provided by Taiwan to buy political, economic and military information and was charged with passing secrets with Taiwan for a period of five years. He has been detained on the mainland since April 2005 and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

VAG President Ken Aaron said his organization has written to China's ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, as well as Consul General Zhong Jianhua in Los Angeles "to request immediate attention to [the Ching Cheong] case" and "to request [Ching's] immediate and unconditional release." Neither the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. nor the Consul General in Los Angeles were available for comment this morning.

Despite yesterday's global response to Ching's case, Aaron says that the actions taken thus far are in a "non-critical, friendly attitude" toward China's government.

Aaron sees the current events as an opportunity to fight for media freedom in general rather than as an opportunity to critique one particular country. "[Ching] is a reputable international journalist and he should be released." However, he said, "All countries have some aspect of their government that has to be monitored correctly. This country [the United States] is no exception."

The Los Angeles press conference was organized in concert with programs scheduled in cities around world. VAG Chair of Board Ann Lau says that Ching's supporters in Calgary protested in front of the Chinese consulate. Media activist Ann Noonan said in an e-mail that the New York press conference hosted several speakers as well as a question and answer session. Other events were held in Bonn (Germany), Calgary (Canada), Hong Kong, Melbourne, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle and Toronto.

The video of Mary Lau's appeal can be viewed online on the VAG website.