IP and Law

The Ching Cheong verdict

The following text is taken from a Sing Tao report on the verdict in the trial of Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong, held on suspicion of leaking state secrets since last year.

ESWN's two summaries of the case and related speculation are quite thorough; the verdict decision translated below, if genuine, fills in quite a few missing pieces. The big question, as ESWN wonders, is how this fell into Sing Tao's hands.

You may also wish to compare this verdict with the one handed down in the Shi Tao case (pdf, 343k, from Global Voices Online).


[SingtaoNet News] Through an informed individual, this website received the court's judgment on the espionage case of Singapore's Straits Times chief mainland China correspondent Ching Cheong; the full text is reproduced here for the readers.

A verdict was announced in the case involving charges of espionage against Singapore's Straits Times chief correspondent Ching Cheong on 31 August at the Second Intermediate Court of Bejiing, sustaining the charges and sentencing him to five years in prison, revocation of political rights for one year, and seizure of 300,000 yuan in personal assets.

According to a Xinhua report, during his tenure as a reporter for Straits Times in Taiwan, Ching Cheong came into contact with Xue and Dai during a seminar held by a foundation in Taiwan. From May 2004 through May 2005, with the knowledge that the foundation was an espionage organization and that Xue and Dai were representatives of the espionage organization, Ching Cheong acted on Xue and Dai's instructions to provide them with written materials concerning state secrets and intelligence matters he obtained from third parties in Beijing and other areas, and obtained payment under a pseudonym in the amount of 300,000 yuan.

The Second Intermediate Court of Beijing found that Ching Cheong accepted missions from the espionage organization, and actively collected state secrets, intelligence reports, and provided these to the intelligence organization; his conduct amounts to the crime of espionage. In light of the fact that following his detention, Ching Cheong voluntarily confessed to the facts of other espionage crimes in addition to the ones known to the state security apparatus, and since he handed over the notebook computer crucial to his espionage activities, the court believes that due to his voluntary confession, Ching Cheong should be given a lighter punishment according to the law; under the finding of espionage, Ching Cheong is sentenced according to the law to five years, to a revocation of political rights for one year, and seizure of 300,000 yuan in personal assets.

The decision of the Second Intermediate Court of Beijing is as follows:

Second Intermediate Court of Beijing Criminal Verdict

(2006) 2nd Int. Crim. #862

Prosecuting organ, Beijing People's Procuratorate Branch #2.

Defendant Ching Cheong, male, 56 years old, born 3 December 1949 in Chaozhou, Guangdong. College educated, resident of Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong permanent resident ID# A4908876(0); prior to his arrest he was on special assignment to the Straits Times of Singapore. Warrant issued on 22 April 2005 for suspicion of working with an overseas intelligence service, surveillance begun on 23 April. Due to suspicion of spying, detained on 5 August 2005. Currently held by the State Security Department of Beijing City.

Defense counsel He Peihua and Cao Zhuomin, lawyers with the Huanyu Jingmao Law Office in Guangdong.

In the Beijing People's Procuratorate Branch #2 criminal indictment #1 [2006], the Beijing People's Procuratorate Branch #2 charged Ching Cheong of espionage, and sent the case to this court on 9 May 2006. In accordance with the law, this court set up collegiate bench, which due to state secrets concerns conducted closed proceedings. The Beijing People's Procuratorate Branch #2 sent deputy prosecutor Gao Xiaong to support the prosecution, and Ching Cheong and his counsels He Peihua and Cao Zhuomin were present for the proceedings. Trial of this case has now concluded.

The Beijing People's Procuratorate Branch #2 charged that at the beginning of 2000, while the defendant Ching Cheong was a reporter for Straits Times of Singapore, he accepted the written requests of Taiwan intelligence agents Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing of the Taiwan Chinese Eurasian Foundation (a cloak for Taiwan's spy agency) to provide to the Chinese Eurasian Foundation written material concerning Chinese internal affairs, cross-straits relations, and conditions in the Taiwan Straits, and under an assumed name accepted financial compensation in the form of research fees.

Between May 2005 and the commencement of the case, while he was aware that the Taiwan China Eurasian Foundation was an intelligence agency and Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing intelligence agents, the defendant Ching Cheong contined to provide material to Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing according to their assignments, using email and fax to give to Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing written material concerning state secrets and intelligence reports provided to him by third parties, and accepted HK$300,000 in compensation.

The public prosecutors have provided this court with evidence including statements from witnesses, state security audits, judicial audits, material evidence, and the confession of the accused, maintaining Ching Cheong to be in violation of the regulations in clause 110 of China Criminal Law, amounting to the crime of espionage, and has asked this court for punishment in accordance with the law.

During trial in this court, defendant Ching Cheong claimed that he did not know that the Taiwan Chinese Eurasian Foundation was an intelligence organization, and he did not know the identity as intelligence agents of the two individuals Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing; they also did not have him write documents concerning state secrets, so he is not guilty; should his conduct amount to a crime, then it is a negligent leakage of state secrets, and falls under voluntary surrender.

The counsel to the defendant Ching Cheong concurred with Ching Cheong's plea, and further lodged that a portion of the statements submitted by the public prosecutor did not touch on classified information. Thus they could not be decisive evidence; the confidential documents submitted by Lu Jianhua did not appear on the computer, and it could not be confirmed based solely on defendant Ching Cheong's confession that Ching Cheong provided those documents to the Taiwan Chinese Eurasian Foundation.

During the trial it was found that the defendant Ching Cheong during his tenure as a reporter for the Straits Times in Taiwan, by participating in a current events seminar of the Taiwan Chinese Eurasian Foundation (confirmed by the State Department of Security to be a Taiwan intelligence organization; hereafter called "Eurasian Foundation") came into contact with the vice-administrator of the foundation, Xue Hongyi, and director of planning Dai Dongqing (confirmed by the State Department of Security to be Taiwan intelligence agents). At the beginning of 2000, the defendent Ching Cheong accepted a request by Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing to provide to the Eurasian Foundation written material concerning Chinese internal affairs, cross-straits relations, and conditions in the Taiwan Straits, and accepted compensation from the Eurasian Foundation in the form of a "research fee."

Between May 2004 and April 2005, while he was fully aware of the identity of the Eurasian Foundation as a spy organization and of Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing as intelligence agents, the defendant Ching Cheong followed assignments by Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing to transmit to Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing by email or fax material concerning state secrets and intelligence reports he gathered from Beijing and elsewhere, including Kirghis and Evaluation of Sino-American Relations, and received compensation in the amount of HK$300,000.

The above facts have the following evidence presented and validated in court:

1. The oral and personally-written confessions of defendant Ching Cheong during the preliminary hearings demonstrate: In spring 1998, he attended a Eurasian Foundation seminar and met that foundation's Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing; they frequently discussed politics, international relations, cross-straits relations, and the Taiwan Straits situation. In January 2000, he transferred to Taiwan for work and proposed that he be given an advance of a certain amount against which his contribution fees could be calculated. Subsequently, he began writing. Starting in summer 2001, he proposed assignments to Lu Jianhua for the Straits Times, and at the same time provided Lu Jianhua's articles to the Eurasian Foundation. The documents given him by Wang Ying are saved on his computer. At the end of 2003, he read in the newspaper that Zeng Yongxian, the administrator of the Eurasian Foundation, had joined the "National Security Council." Because the "National Security Council" was an intelligence agency, he began to question the background of the Eurasian Foundation and the identities of Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing. At the beginning of 2004 he met Xue Hongyi to verify the nature of the Eurasian Foundation; Xue replied that the Eurasian Foundation was mostly a peripheral organization, but was still an independent think tank. In April 2004, Xue Hongyi asked him for photos of the PLA fleet visiting Hong Kong, and he confirmed that the Eurasian Foundation was an intelligence agency and that Xue and Dai were intelligence agents. Upon learning that the Eurasian Foundation was an intelligence agency, he continued to provide documents to the Eurasian Foundation. At the end of 2004 he accepted another HK$300,000 "advance research fee."

The defendant Ching Cheong identified the documents obtained from a search of Lu Jianhua's computer, and identified the documents on the computer provided to the Eurasian Foundation, that is, the documents in the folder labeled "tw". He confirmed that the file "Taiwan Eurasian Education Foundation 2003 commissioned research fee income and expenses" could reflect the circumstances of compensation received and documents from Lu Jianhua provided to the Eurasian Foundation.

2. The witness Wang Ying's testimony demonstrates: In summer 2002, Ching Cheong assigned articles to him for the Straits Times whose contents concerned Chinese mainland politics, economics, military affairs, international affairs, and cross-straits relations. He began submitting articles to Ching Cheong, through April 2005. The documents he gave Ching Cheong were in Chinese; he sent them to him by email, and they were translated, trimmed, and expanded by Ching Cheong, and published in English with Ching Cheong's byline. When giving assignments, Ching Cheong provided suggestions of areas for particular attention, such as Sino-Japanese relations, cross-straits relations, and the anti-splittism law. From summer 2002, he submitted a total of more than 100 articles, for SGD300 apiece, which Ching Cheong gave to him as a personal cheque after converting to HKD. Each time he got a contribution fee he returned to Ching Cheong a written statement reading "Received from Straits Times contribution fee of xx Hong Kong dollars" and signed "Wang Ying".

Wang Ying identified the documents he provided to Ching Cheong.

3. The witness Lu Jianhua's testimony demonstrates: In March 2000 Ching Cheong had him write articles for Straits Times whose contents were opinions on Chinese internal affairs and international affairs. He provided Ching Cheong with 60 or 70 pieces via fax; the contents concerned such issues as Sino-US relations, Sino-Russian relations, the Taiwan Straits situation, Sino-European relations, anti-terrorism, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and military reform. Contribution fees from Ching Cheong were typically given in batches of ten, and he wrote a receipt reading "Received Straits Times contribution fee".

Lu Jianhua identified the documents he gave to Ching Cheong that were recovered from his computer.

4. Classified State Security Department assessment, copies from the State Secrecy Bureau, "Taiwan Eurasian Education Foundation 2003 commissioned research fee income and expenses" from Ching Cheong's computer, and the confession of the defendant Ching Cheong demonstrate: After May 2004, Ching Cheong provided to the Eurasian Foundation four documents concerning most confidential-level state secrets and two documents concerning intelligence reports given him by Lu Jianhua.

5. State Security Department of Beijing City assessment, copies from the Beijing State Secrecy Bureau, the defendant Ching Cheong's confession, and contents of the folder "tw" on his computer demonstrate: After May 2004, Ching Cheong provided the Eurasian Foundation with two written pieces concerning intelligence reports.

6. State Security Department of Beijing City assessment, an assisting assessment from the general political office of the People's Liberation Army, a statement by the Secrecy Committee of the People's Liberation Army, the defendant Ching Cheong's confession, and the contents of the folder "tw" on his computer demonstrate: In May, 2005, Ching Cheong provided the Eurasian Foundation with one written piece concerning classified-level military secrets.

7. The assessment of Beijing Huaxia Evidence Appraisal Center, and a work report of the State Security Department of Beijing City demonstrate: copies were made of the data on (Ching Cheong's) notebook computer hard drive and floppy disks sent for inspection, and data recovery was performed on deleted documents, with data related to the case being recovered. The contents are on the attached CD.

8. The assessment of Beijing Huaxia Evidence Appraisal Center, and a work report of the State Security Department of Beijing City demonstrate: copies were made of the data on (Lu Jianhua's) notebook computer hard drive sent for inspection, and data recovery was performed on deleted documents, with data related to the case being recovered.

9. A confirmation document from the espionage group at the State Security Department, and a statement from a representative of the espionage group demonstrate: the Taiwan "National Security Council" is a spy agency in Taiwan; "Chinese Eurasian Foundation" is registered as a private scholarly organization but is lead by the "Taiwan National Security Council", engages in collecting intelligence reports on the mainland, and is an undercover organ of Taiwan's espionage agency; an undercover organs of an espionage agency is an espionage agency; Xue Hongyi, formerly known as Xie Shengyi, alias Xie An, vice-administrator and operations director of the Taiwan "Chinese Eurasian Foundation", is an agent of Taiwan's "National Security Council" espionage agency; Dai Dongqing, planning director of the Taiwan "Chinese Eurasian Foundation," is an agent of Taiwan's "National Security Council" espionage agency.

10. Work report by State Security Department of Beijing City of the major contents of Ching Cheong's portable computer verifies the contents of Ching Cheong's computer (contents attached on CD).

11. "Taiwan Eurasian Education Foundation 2003 commissioned research fee income and expenses" on defendant Ching Cheong's computer demonstrates the circumstances under which Ching Cheong received compensation and the circumstances under which he provided documents from Lu Jianhua to the Eurasian Foundation.

12. Photos of the confiscation of Ching Cheong's computer are admitted.

13. CDs of the State Security Department's questioning of Ching Cheong and the relevant materials obtained from Ching Cheong's computer are admitted.

13. A work report by the State Security Department of Shenzhen City demonstrates: Following investigation, Ching Cheong was suspected of the crime of selling state secrets overseas. On 22 April 2005, Ching Cheong was arrested while trying to cross the border at the port of Luohu in Shenzhen.

14. A work statement by the State Security Department of Beijing City demonstrates: Following coercive measures, Ching Cheong was able to actively cooperate with the investigation; he honestly confessed to his crimes, especially confessing to a number of other crimes which investigators were uncertain of during their earlier investigation, and arranged for a third party to bring his laptop computer (which contained a clear record of criminal activity such as providing classified material to Taiwan espionage agencies) from Hong Kong SAR to the investigators.

15. The defendant Ching Cheong's personal data is admitted.

The above evidence was collected by the State Security organizations in accordance with the law; the source and procedure are legal, and the evidence is mutually corroborative. Following the assessment by hearing, this court affirms it.

In regard to the facts of the indictment, counsel for the defendant Ching Cheong submitted evidence of Ching Cheong's income, articles Ching Cheong has published, the evaluation of well-known Hong Kong individuals, and material related to Eurasian Foundation attendees at a "Cross-straits forum" activity, using the evidence to demonstrate that Ching Cheong's income was substantial, so he would not commit crimes for money; Ching Cheong's character and patriotism are commonly admired and affirmed by people in all areas of Hong Kong, so he could not have taken part in espionage activities; Ching Cheong dispelled his suspicions that the Eurasian Foundation was an intelligence agency.

The above evidence admitted by the hearing, the prosecution maintained that the above evidence does not demonstrate that Ching Cheong has never undertaken espionage activities, and recommended that the court not accept the evidence. The review of this court finds that the prosecution has sufficient grounds, and thus this court does not admit the evidence put forth by the defense counsel.

This court finds that the defendant Ching Cheong accepted assignments from espionage agents, actively collected state secrets and intelligence reports of our country, and provided them to espionage agencies; his conduct amounts to the crime of espionage and he should be punished according to the law. In view of the fact that following his detention for selling state secrets overseas, defendant Ching Cheong voluntary made an honest confession to the facts of espionage crimes the State Security organs had not previously been certain of, as well as his voluntary surrender and provision of his notebook computer as important evidence of his espionage activities, his punishment can be lessened in accordance with the law. The facts of the indictment brought against defendant Ching Cheong by Beijing People's Procuratorate Branch #2 are clear and the evidence sufficient, so the charges in the indictment are upheld. In regard to the explanations and arguments by defendant Ching Cheong and his counsel during the course of this trial that Ching Cheong is not guilty of the crime of espionage: after inspection, defendant Ching Cheong, under clear instructions from third parties giving him assignments concerning the particular subjects of national politics, international relations, and cross-straits relations, and in the circumstances of a large advance sum, should have clearly understood the identities of the opposite parties. His oral and personally-written confession during preliminary hearings explained that since he had already begun to have private suspiciouns about the true nature of the Eurasian Foundation as an intelligence agency and about the identity of Xue Hongyi and Dai Dongqing as intelligence agents, in May 2004 he put forth tentative questions, but he nevertheless continued to provide material to them, making it apparent that he had the intent to commit the crime. Objectively, Ching Cheong accepted assignments from an espionage agency and its agents, accepted financial compensation, and provided the espionage agency with highly confidential-level state secrets and intelligence reports, harming state security. His conduct fulfills the major conditions making up the crime of espionage, so Ching Cheong and his counsels' opinions are not tenable. In regard to the opinion put forth by defense counsel that evidence is lacking for Ching Cheong providing the Eurasian Foundation with documents he obtained from Lu Jianhua: after inspection, Ching Cheong not only confessed to the facts of this charge, but the evidence admitted in this case can demonstrate that there are records on his computer of the documents he provided from Lu Jianhua. Ching Cheong also identified the documents he provided, giving confirmation. Thus the counsels' opinion is not tenable. Ching Cheong and his counsels' opinions regarding Ching Cheong's voluntary surrender are tenable, and this court accepts them. According to regulations in Article 110 Item 1, Article 55 Paragraph 1, Article 56 Paragraph 1, Article 113 Paragraph 2, Article 67 Paragraph 2, Article 61, and Article 64 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, and Article 2 of the Explanation of Several Questions Regarding Specific Uses of the Law in Treatment of Voluntary Confessions and Assistance by the Supreme Court, this court's verdict is as follows:

1. The defendant Ching Cheong is guilty of the crime of espionage, and is sentenced to five years (The term is to be calculated starting on the day the verdict is implemented, with each day spent in detention prior to the implementation of the verdict to count as one day of the prison term; therefore, the term will run from 5 August 2005 to 3 August 2010); revocation of political rights for one year, and seizure of personal assets in the amount of 300,000 yuan.

2. Continued pursuit of the HK$300,000 the defendant Ching Cheong obtained through criminal means (amounting to 316,950 yuan).

3. Seizure of items used by Ching Cheong in commission of his crimes, as confiscated by the investigative organs and included in the case (listing follows).

If this verdict is not accepted, an appeal may be filed between two and ten days from its receipt, to this court or to the Beijing Higher People's Court directly; for written appeals, the original appellate petition together with one copy must be submitted.

Presiding Judge: Li Yongjing
Judicial Officer: Li Huiwen
Judicial Officer: Zhou Jianzhong

31 August 2006

Attachment: List of confiscated items

1. Notebook computer (Compaq model P2817TCP) - 1
2. CD drive - 1
3. Net card - 1
4. Floppy disk - 1
5. CD - 1
6. Computer bag (black) - 1

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