Doubts About The Ching Cheong Verdict Document

At first, the only information about the trial proceedings came from a Xinhua report.  More recently, a full document purported to be the verdict from the Second Intermediate Court of Beijing has appeared in overseas newspapers and websites.  An English-language translation of the document was made by Joel Martinsen and is available through Danwei.  The authenticity of this verdict document cannot be verified.  The style of Chinese court documents can be imitated, but this document contains many details -- if any one of them should be falsified, then the entire document would be inauthenticated.  So far, that has not happened yet.  Therefore, this document is now being analyzed and commented upon.

(Next Weekly)  Doubts About the Ching Cheong Verdict Document.  Issue #861.  September 7, 2006.

[in translation]

Hong Kong reporter Ching Cheong was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to five years in jail.  The verdict document was circulated earlier this week on the Internet.  The document charged Ching Cheong with providing multiple intelligence items to Taiwan's Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies (sometimes directly translated as the Chinese Eurasian Foundation).  Upon examining the 5,000-word document in detail, there are at least four major doubts.

Doubt #1: The photographs of the navy ships

The verdict document pointed out that at the end of April 2004, the Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies asked Ching Cheong for photographs of the People's Liberation Army naval fleet visiting Hong Kong, and therefore concluded that the Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies is an intelligence organization.

"This is proof of espionage?  This seems to be a bit of a joke.  When the PLA naval fleets visited Hong Kong in the past, many little children have visited them and got their photographs taken in front of the ships."  The Ching Cheong Concern Group spokesperson David Hui Tin-fook wondered: "Satellites can take photographs of anything nowadays!  Why do they need to go through Ching Cheong to get the photographs of the navy ships?"

(File photo of the Chinese naval fleet, April 2004: Apple Daily)

Doubt #2: Kyrgyzstan

Another piece of evidence against Ching Cheong was that between 2004 and 2005, he provided many pieces of intelligence to the Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies, including material on Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan is a country between China and Russia with a population of four million and very littlie in natural resources.  Why does Taiwan need information on this remote little country?  Current affairs commentator Johnny YS Lau said: "Never mind Kyrgyzstan.  Information that Hong Kong people regard as remote is not the same for those backward thinkers in the mainland.  As long as there is evidence that Ching Cheong wrote for the Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies and received money, this become their evidence."

Doubt #3: Cover Organization

Chinese University of Hong Kong Pan-Asian Research Institute Chinese legal system researcher Ong Yew Kim does not believe that the verdict document established that the Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies is a spy organization.  It only ambiguously called the foundation an "espionage cover organization."  This showed that the authorities lacked strong evidence, and Ching Cheong should appeal on this basis.

"We are an academic organization.  We have neither interest nor ability to obtain intelligence information," said Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies executive vice-president Chao Chien-min.  "Our funds come through donation, and the government is one of our target donors.  Using last year as an example, the government accounted for less than half of our total amount."  According to information, the foundation was established in 1993 and its current assets amount to only NT$30 million (over HK$7 million).  Chao Chien-min said that the National Policy Research Foundation (which has KMT honorary chairman Lian Chan as its chairman of the board of directors) has a lot more money than they do.  Chao Chien-min emphasized: "Ching Cheong is a reporter and not a scholar.  We would not invite him to write for us.  We run several dozen conferences each year.  I think that Ching Cheong must have come to gather news, but I cannot remember for which conference.  I have never personally met Ching Cheong."

Doubt #4: Law-writer Was Invited Too

The funniest thing was that Mary Lau, the wife of Ching Cheong, said that former Basic Law Draft Committee member Xu Chongde has participated in Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies activities.  If this was really a spy organization, then why did Xu (who knows both the Chinese and Hong Kong laws) attend?

Xu explained: "She must think that I am like Ching Cheong.  She is talking nonsense.  I am going to sue her in Hong Kong."  Sorry, according to the Foundation on International & Cross-strait Studies' website, Xu went with several other scholars early January this year to attend an academic forum on "Constitutional Reform" organized by the foundation (see link and screenshot below).  What kind of law-writer communicates with "spies" in the open while threatening to sue people?