Cheng Lei, Australian-Chinese Anchor, Detained in Beijing

  • Cheng, of Australian-Chinese origin was detained in Beijing.
  • Payne did not explain the reason for Cheng Lei's detention.
  • In July this year, the Australian government warned its citizens to be alert to the risk of arbitrary arrest by China.

The Australian government has confirmed that Cheng Lei, a presenter for China’s state-run CGTN television network, and an Australian citizen, has been detained by China for two weeks. At present, the reason for her arrest is still unknown. Since the beginning of this year, several Australian citizens have been arrested and sentenced heavily in China.

The Australian journalist Cheng Lei has worked for the Chinese broadcaster CGTN for about eight years.

According to the Associated Press, Cheng, of Australian-Chinese origin was detained in Beijing. Australian officials made a “consular visit” to Cheng Lei via video last Thursday.

On Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a statement saying “the Australian government has learned that its citizen Cheng Lei has been detained in China. On August 14, the Chinese authorities officially notified her of her detention.”

Payne also said in the statement that he would continue to help Cheng Lei and her family, but Payne did not explain the reason for Cheng Lei’s detention. Payne only mentioned that “the government will not comment further on this matter to ensure privacy.”

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham also stated today that the Australian government still does not know the reason for Cheng Lei’s arrest. “Cheng Lei is an Australian, a journalist who has been working in China for some period of time,” he said.

“I’ve actually met her and been interviewed by her while overseas myself. I feel for her family very much at this point in time, and it’s why we will do what we can to assist her as we would and have any Australian in these sorts of circumstances.”

Cheng Lei is an anchor of China CCTV English Channel (CGTN, also known as China Global Television Network). It is reported that she did not reply to the news for several weeks, which caused her friends’ concerns.

According to Australian media reports, Cheng Lei has not been prosecuted for the time being, but was detained in a designated place and under “residential surveillance.” In this case, investigators can detain and interrogate the suspect for six months, during which time they can cut off their contact with the lawyer and the outside world.

The New York Times pointed out that in this case, Cheng Lei’s family and Australian diplomats may have to wait a long time before hearing the details of the allegations against her.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that Cheng Lei’s two children have been living in Melbourne with their family. Cheng Lei’s family said that they are doing everything possible to support Cheng Lei.

Cheng Lei was born in China and moved to Australia with her parents at the age of ten. Before going to CCTV in China, she worked in the financial sector in Australia.

In 2003, he returned to China and started working as a financial reporter and host for the English Channel of CCTV. Cheng Lei participated in reporting during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou in January.

In March of this year, Chinese-Australian citizen and writer Yang Hengjun were arrested on charges of “espionage” in China. The case has not yet been heard.

In June of this year, after being detained for seven years, Australian citizen Karm Gilespie was sentenced to death for transnational drug trafficking charges. Some commentators believe that these cases are directly related to the deteriorating relations between China and Australia over a period of time.

As the relationship between China and Australia continues to deteriorate, in July this year, the Australian government warned its citizens to be alert to the risk of arbitrary arrest by China and pointed out that the risk is still rising. China responded that Canberra produced fake news and misled citizens.

The New York Times quoted Richard McGregor, a scholar at the Lowy Institute in Sydney who studies Chinese politics and foreign policy, and pointed out that it is unclear whether nationality is one of the reasons for Cheng Lei’s detention.

Cheng Lei described herself on her Twitter account as a “passionate Chinese storyteller and host of CGTN financial programs.” Her last tweet was posted on August 11, and it was a video of the opening of a Beijing restaurant.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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