Australian journalist formally arrested in China on national security charge

Australian journalist formally arrested in China on national security charge
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An Australian journalist was formally arrested in China on suspicion of illegally providing state secrets overseas after being detained for the past six months.

As Reuters reports, Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, and Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday confirmed the arrest of Cheng Lei, 49, in separate statements.

“We are absolutely convinced of her innocence,” a representative for Cheng’s family told the news service. “We respect China’s judicial process and urge the authorities bring this matter to a swift, compassionate and timely conclusion.”


Cheng was born in China but moved to Australia as a child, the news service reported, noting that she has worked for the English-language Chinese state media channel CGTN for nearly 10 years as a business reporter. During her time in Beijing, she regularly attended business functions and embassy events for the Australian community, it added.

According to Payne, Australian officials have visited Cheng six times during her detainment, most recently at the end of January. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson stated that Cheng's rights were “fully guaranteed," Reuters reports.

Cheng's family has reportedly implored the Chinese government to allow her access to her two children, aged 9 and 11, who were in Australia visiting their grandparents when Cheng was detained.

Reuters notes that tensions between Canberra and Beijing have been heightened for the past year after the Australian government called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese government in return has retaliated by imposing trade barriers against Australian goods.