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H.K. reporter jailed for spying maintains innocence.

HONG KONG, Sept. 1 Kyodo

A Hong Kong reporter sentenced to five years in prison by a Beijing court for espionage has reiterated his innocence, local news reports quoted his wife as saying Friday.

Ching Cheong said in a statement to his family through his lawyer late Thursday that he has committed no act harming China's interests and that he will file an appeal, Mary Lau was quoted as saying.

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court on Thursday sentenced Ching, who worked for Singapore's Straits Times, on charges of spying for rival Taiwan.

''He (Ching) is innocent and the sentence is very unfair, the court has not taken into consideration evidence in favor of the defense,'' Lau said.

''He believes what he has done is to improve stability between China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He has never done anything that harms the country's interests. He is free of pressure and will file an appeal,'' she added.

Appearing on radio station RTHK, Lau said Ching was also fined about 610,000 yuan (about $78,400), not 300,000 yuan as earlier reported by China's official Xinhua News Agency.

Ching was detained in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in April last year and formally charged the following August with passing state secrets to a private foundation in Taiwan over a five-year period.

He had reportedly traveled to Guangzhou to collect information connected with the purged Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, who died in January while under house arrest for sympathizing with Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989.

Ching had worked for Hong Kong's pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po newspaper from 1981 to 1989 as its bureau chief in Beijing. He reportedly left the paper in protest after the Tiananmen crackdown, and had worked for The Straits Times since 1996.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Sep 4, 2006
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