China detains Australian anchor for state-run English language network

China detains Australian anchor for state-run English language network
© Getty Images

The Chinese government has detained an Australian anchor for Beijing's English-language news network CGTN, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The Australian Government has been informed that an Australian citizen, Ms. Cheng Lei, has been detained in China," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement. Cheng is currently detained in Beijing and has been allowed to speak via video conference to Australian diplomats, Payne added.

"Formal notification was received on 14th of August from Chinese authorities of her detention,” Payne said in the statement. “Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Ms. Cheng at a detention facility via video link on 27th of August and will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Cheng has been detained under “residential surveillance at a designated location,” the television network reported. In this form of detention, officials can imprison and question suspects for up to six months without legal representation before formally arresting or charging them, the network noted.

Friends of Cheng said she had not replied to social media messages in several weeks, and her biographical page on the CGTN website was removed.

"As a family we are aware of the current situation with regard to Cheng Lei's status as advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT),” Cheng’s family members said in a statement. "We are in close consultation with DFAT and doing everything we can as a family to support Cheng Lei.”

Cheng has two young children who are staying with family in Melbourne, according to the network. She has worked in China since 2001 and has worked for CGTN for eight years.

Cheng’s detention comes more than a year after the government detained another Australian citizen, writer and former Chinese government employee Yang Hengjun. Yang, the subject of an espionage investigation, has been kept from his lawyers since January 2019.