The Fisking of a Ching Cheong Report

Most days, I couldn't care less what western reporters have to say.  But some days, I have to throw up my hands in despair and decide to shine the limelight on someone.  This is one of those days.

Keith Bradser reported for the New York Times in an article titled "China Accuses a Detained Correspondent of Spying for Taiwan":

China said Friday that it had formally arrested a Hong Kong-based newspaper correspondent and accused him of spying for Taiwan, the latest in a series of signs that China is tightening controls on news organizations.  The correspondent, Ching Cheong, was detained on April 22 in southern China and has been held incommunicado since. Mr. Ching is the chief China correspondent of The Straits Times in Singapore.  [Comment:  Mostly factually correct background, but this is ancient history.]

The arrest comes as the Chinese government released a long list of new regulations limiting foreign investment in the media - in everything from book publishing to movie production.  [Comment: What the f*ck has this got to with Ching Cheong?]

The restrictions also coincide with a surge of local protests in many villages and cities across China for a wide range of reasons, including commercial disputes and environmental damage. There has been no sign, however, that the protests are centrally organized or pose any immediate threat to China's political system.    [Comment: What the f*ck has this got to with Ching Cheong?]

"The government is increasingly worried about social instability and disruption of growth," said Tom Doctoroff, the chief executive for greater China at the JWT Advertising Agency. "The government is clearly getting very concerned about the flow of information."    [Comment: What the f*ck has this got to with Ching Cheong?]

The official New China News Agency reported Friday that Mr. Ching had been accused of taking millions of Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of American dollars, in exchange for gathering economic, political and especially military information for Taiwan since 2000. Mr. Ching was accused of passing on classified documents labeled "top secret" or "confidential" to Taiwan's National Security Bureau and of disguising his work by using an alias, Chen Yuanchun, assigned by the bureau.  [Comment:  This is the only substantive portion of Keith Bradser's news report on the Ching Cheong case -- two full sentences copied from the Xinhua report.]

Born in Shantou, China, and reared in Hong Kong, Mr. Ching holds a British National Overseas passport, which was issued to nearly half of Hong Kong's 6.8 million residents before Britain returned the territory to China in 1997.  The passport does not entitle holders to move to Britain but does allow them representation by consular officials; a British Consulate spokeswoman here said late Friday that the Chinese authorities had denied access to Mr. Ching.  [Comment:  The rules are very simple here.  I hold an American passport and a Hong Kong resident card.  I have been told explicitly what will happen.  If I enter China with my American passport with the required visa, I am under the protection of the American embassy.  If I enter China with my Hong Kong resident card, I am no longer under the protection of the American embassy.  Since a visa costs money, whereas free and unlimited entries are given to a Hong Kong resident, most people in my situation will enter as a Hong Kong resident.  I expect Ching Cheong must have done the same.  Therefore, his BNO passport has no meaning as he was considered to be a Chinese citizen (HK SAR).]

Irene Ngoo, a spokeswoman for Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes The Straits Times, said that the company had been unable to contact Mr. Ching since his detention, and that company-appointed lawyers had not been allowed to contact him.  "We have absolutely no inkling or suggestion at all that Ching Cheong could be involved in something of this nature," she said. "He has been an outstanding journalist."  [Comment:  Corporate press release that illuminates nothing.]

In Taiwan, the National Security Bureau declined to comment, following a policy of not doing so in espionage cases.  [Comment:  Government press release that illuminates nothing.]

Zhao Yan, a researcher in Beijing for The New York Times, was detained last September on suspicion of leaking state secrets abroad. Prosecutors in Beijing are still deciding whether to bring formal charges against him.  [Comment: What the f*ck has this got to with Ching Cheong?]

So what have you learned from the newspaper of record in the United States?  You would have learned more by reading the original Xinhua article.  By the way, Philip Pan of the Washington Post did much better than this NYT copy-and-paste job from mostly irrelevant sources.  At least, WaPo made an effort to contact people involved in the case.

For the real deal, you should read the Hong Kong Chinese-language newspapers (see Link).