The release of imprisoned journalist Ching Cheong (程翔) one day before the sentencing of writer Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) to four years in prison sends a mixed message: releasing one prisoner, while sentencing another. “In the context of recent official media statements on loosening Internet controls, Lü’s four-year sentence, handed down less than 24 hours after Ching’s release, is a typical example of China’s policy of simultaneously loosening and tightening control,” Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom said today. On February 5—the very same day of Lü’s sentencing—Wang Hui, head of media relations for the Beijing Olympic Games Organizing Committee, was quoted as saying that relaxing control of the Internet during the Olympics “is one of the ways the Olympics may promote progress in China.”
“In the final lead-up to the Olympics, if China wants to demonstrate its cooperation with and respect for decisions of independent, international bodies, a significant next step would be to release all individuals in detention for exercising their human rights,” said Hom. At a minimum, China must release all individuals who have been determined by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to be in detention arbitrarily. This group includes Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), Shi Tao (师涛), Yao Fuxin (姚福信), Hu Shigen (胡石根), and Li Chang (李昌).
Ching Cheong was released on February 4 and returned to his Hong Kong home on Tuesday, February 5. Lü was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on February 5. According to Lü’s wife, Wang Xue’e, the judge read the sentencing statement, did not allow for any questions or statements, and did not allow Wang to speak with her husband before he was led away.
A permanent resident of Hong Kong and Singapore, Ching Cheong worked for Wen Wei Po, a pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong, for many years before resigning in protest after the official crackdown on protesters at Tiananmen Square in June 1989. He was working as chief China correspondent for Singapore’s Straits Times when he was detained in a Guangzhou hotel in April 2005. Ching was formally charged in August 2005, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on charges of spying for Taiwan on August 31, 2006. Ching’s family and friends have consistently denied the charges. Ching’s wife said that her husband was set up when he tried to obtain recordings of secret interviews with China's former Communist Party chief, Zhao Ziyang. Ching’s trial was held behind closed doors, and his lawyer did not have full access to evidence in the case.
Lü Gengsong taught at a special training school for public security officers, but was dismissed in 1993 because of his activities in support of democratic reform in China. In recent years he supported himself as a free-lance writer. He published a book, Corruption in the Communist Party of China, in 2000, and has also published a number of articles on corruption, organized crime, and related topics. More recently, he has followed rights defense activities, including reporting on the sentencing of Hangzhou eviction protester Yang Yunbiao.
To promote freedom of expression in China, see Human Rights in China’s Take Action Olympics Campaign: http://www.ir2008.org.
For more information on Ching Cheong, see:
For more information on Lü Gengsong, see:
For more information on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, see: