Straits Times reporter arrested in China

There are all kinds of excuses we can come with as to why this is okay, and why we should just let it go as an “internal matter.” But I don’t see it that way. Reading this article made me sick, and hearing in my head all the pre-rehearsed excuses of the apologists just makes me sicker.

China has detained a prominent member of Hong Kong’s international press corps who traveled to the mainland to obtain a collection of secret interviews with a Communist leader purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Security agents apprehended Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, on April 22 in the southern city of Guangzhou, where he was scheduled to meet a source who had promised to give him a copy of the politically sensitive manuscript, according to the journalist’s wife, Mary Lau.

Lau said Chinese authorities warned her and the Straits Times not to disclose her husband’s detention, and she stayed silent for weeks in the hope he would be released. She said she decided to go public last week after a mainland official told her privately that the government was preparing to charge him with “stealing core state secrets.”

If charged, Ching would be the second journalist for a foreign newspaper arrested by the government of President Hu Jintao in the past year. Zhao Yan, a researcher in the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, was arrested by the State Security Ministry in September on similar charges and has been held incommunicado without trial since.

The arrests could have a chilling effect on foreign news operations in China. The Chinese government often jails Chinese journalists and writers — the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says there are more journalists in prison in China than anywhere else in the world — but in the past it has generally refrained from arresting individuals employed by foreign news agencies.

What’s your definition of a police state? Does China qualify? To me, it is where people are afraid to speak because the police have the power to arrest and hold them at will, as Stalin’s secret police and the Gestapo did. Is this an examnple of the behavior of an enlightened government or of a police state — or of something in-between? The question is sincere. I generally choose not to refer to China as a police state, as there are aspects of the country that seem to go against the classic definitions. But each time I read stories like this, I am forced to reconsider.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 322 Comments

I appreciate all the suggestions, Lisa. I do have a fulltime job aside from this site, so I don’t know if or when I’ll find the time to make all these changes….

June 9, 2005 @ 11:28 am | Comment

Having a full-time job myself, I don’t know how you manage to do as much as you do on this site, quite frankly…

June 9, 2005 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

I suppose if richard you post on one topic one day and that generates plenty of comments; and then you post another entry a few days later on the same subject, perhaps it’s possible to direct the comments on the second post to the first?

but what you put up on your site in general … “resource” is a overused businesspeak word … nevertheless I’m v grateful that you do put stuff up that I probably wouldn’t have the time or be able to find myself … pls keep going!!

I’m curious what your fulltime job is, don’t mean to pry but perhaps it’s a natural curiosity to ask qs about one’s host.

June 9, 2005 @ 2:58 pm | Comment

Is there only ONE Richard?


June 9, 2005 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

No, just one.

June 9, 2005 @ 5:43 pm | Comment

Tell us what your full time job is first kls……..

June 10, 2005 @ 6:04 am | Comment

That’s not what I wanted to say. What’s going on here then? Some sort of secret meeting place?

Please mark me as a *Yes* for a book thread/s and *Yes* for Amazon hyperlink. Is that what we’re talking about here?

June 10, 2005 @ 6:08 am | Comment

Oh, and a *yes* for Richard as the new Oprah!

June 10, 2005 @ 8:21 am | Comment

We’re trying to see just how long this thread can get. I was going to give Richard the last word but you John have kept it alive….ALIVE!!!!

I don’t know what we’ll do when it drops off the front page….

June 10, 2005 @ 10:38 am | Comment

The new Oprah? I’ve been called many things, but that’s a first.

KLS, not sure I answered you – I am a former news reporter and now a “public relations executive,” a most dubious honor.

Lisa, I’m thinking about your open thread suggestion. I always thought that was for the superbloggers like Atrios and Kos. My fear is I’ll open a thread, no one will comment and I’ll look like a moron.

June 10, 2005 @ 10:56 am | Comment

Ha ha, look like a moron indeed. I see that the thread about FLG has already hit 100 and I just commented on a 50+ thread about Chen/Aus.

I’m not sure what this open thread is exactly, perhaps I should pop over to Kos and see. From Lisa’s post, I assume it’s an open/ongoing thread where commentors can raise points not related to any of the posts?

June 10, 2005 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Yes; Kos and Atrios always have a thread going on just for readers to chat and comment on whatever they choose. It helps turn their sites into “hives” where people congregate and hang out. But again, they have huge readerships — hundreds of thousands a day. I have a tiny fraction (China is a niche subject here in the US) and couldn’t possibly keep those thread alive. At least I don’t thinki I could.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:21 am | Comment

I see. I don’t necessarily think that one requires hundreds of thousands of daily readers in order to justify having an open thread in operation. I mean, it certainly doesn’t require comments to be sent into it every couple of seconds in order to be a success.

Anyway, I’ll pop over and have a squint at Kos first.

It would be a first in the China blogashere though….as far as I know anyway. While that doesn’t exactly help with the pressure of looking like a moron if no one comments, there’s as much chance that it could work in the site’s favour by being the only place ‘to’ hang out in the China blogashere if you see what I mean.

Still, we’ll never know unless we see trial period or something.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:35 am | Comment

and our adhoc open thread is about to drop off the main page!!!

June 10, 2005 @ 11:44 am | Comment

and you know, Richard, I don’t think you have to worry about there being no comments…especially if you keep it open long enough…this is a pretty vocal group, small as it may be…I certainly enjoy hanging out and chatting (as you may have noticed).

June 10, 2005 @ 11:52 am | Comment

I’m a reporter John (surely you guessed from my punchy organised well written prose???)

June 10, 2005 @ 6:00 pm | Comment

If you are interested in Chinese history, there is a book about England’s first attempt to set up an embassy in China. That was around the end of the 18th century. A quite fasinating account of the what went on in the negotiations from the perspectives of both sides. England did not get the permission of the Son of Heaven. Unfortunately I have forgotten the title and the author’s name. the author was a French diplomat. The title was kind of catchy, like “The Moveable ….”

A good read. Well researched by the author into the primary records in Chinese and the English records.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:54 pm | Comment

That last comment was by me. After reading the comments backward just now, I saw reference to the McCartney expedition to China. That is what book of the forgotten title is about. It was published about 10 years ago.

June 11, 2005 @ 12:15 am | Comment



June 11, 2005 @ 5:55 am | Comment

You simply must read Joe Studwell’s China Dream for some great commentary on the McCartney mission.

June 11, 2005 @ 9:20 am | Comment

You simply much read Joe Studwell’s China Dream full stop.

The same goes for Mr. China by Tim Clissold (one of the 2 men that lost billions in China in the early-mid 90’s)

A lot of the stuff in those books you couldn’t honestly make up.

June 12, 2005 @ 4:41 am | Comment

China is a police state but then most countries in the world are heading toward that direction in the current war on ‘terrorism’.

Nationalism, racism, xenophobe are on the rise everywhere in the world.
So who knows the world might be heading towards another world war!

November 25, 2005 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

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