Chairperson Report, November 2006

November, in an extremely bad mood.
Veteran journalist Ching Cheong’s appeal was rejected by the Beijing Higher People’s Court on 24 November. The court confirmed his original judgement and five-year prison term. The result was disappointing in extreme and aroused deep anger. I believe many members share my feelings of hopelessness when you can do nothing but watch an innocent person who accused of espionage, arrested in a set-up, held through interminable delays in the investigation process, arbitrarily defamed and, finally, tried in “black-box” proceedings. Each stage was simply frightening. Eventually, you come to understand that the frequently repeated principle, “rule according to law”, is nothing more than a mere slogan.

Until now, Ching Cheong has been detained for more than 500 days. I still remember his older brother’s article in which described Ching Cheong during the announcement of the appeal result, “he lost 20 lbs and the clothes he wore barely fitted him. His wan and sallow face looked much older than he actually was. This was not the first time we saw him looking like this, but it shocked us every time we did.”

It’s a life, and it was ruined like this!
In December, we will organise a world-wide signature campaign. The sole purpose is to save a life. We urge the Chinese authorities to release Ching Cheong under medical parole as soon as possible. We hope that our members will support the campaign so please ask your colleagues to sign as well. Moreover, we will hold the signature campaign outside Sogo department store on 16 December to seek public support.
We have been following up the case of Sing Pao’s long delay to pay salaries to its staff members. On 22 November, we wrote to the management of Sing Pao urging them to pay back the staff members and correct the existing mode of payment. As the problem has not been completely resolved, we sent another letter to the Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour & Commissioner for Labour calling on follow-up action on 4 December. Although we have filed the case to the Labour Department, we will continue to monitor developments closely.

Veteran journalist Mr. Pao Wan-lung and photojournalist Mr Mak Shui-hung’s funeral services were conducted in November respectively. Many journalists expressed sorrow over the death of Mr. Pao. His caring, benevolent and helpfulness will never be forgotten. Lots of photojournalists also turned up to bid farewell to Mr. Mak.

The HKJA, on behalf of our members, gave a donation to each of the families of the two men. Money returned by the families have been added to the charity fund.

Finally, a total of ten sessions of a five-week training course ‘2006 On-job Training Course’ has been completed with overwhelming support of our members. We sincerely extend our apologies to those who could not be accommodated. We look forward to your early applications next year. At the same time, we thank our speakers who gave generously of their time and their knowledge and for making the course such a success.

Press freedom is the cornerstone of a functioning media and as members of the industry we are responsible for the defence of this core value of our city.
Chairperson Report, October 2006