A high profile Australian news anchor for the Chinese government’s English news channel (CGTN) has been detained in Beijing in what’s been described by the ABC as a “highly sensitive” case.
For the past few months, Cheng Lei has kept a detailed, online diary account of China’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic; with her perspective often fiercely critical of the government.
A statement from Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed Lei’s detainment in the Chinese capital and said she’d had the opportunity to speak with Australian diplomats last week via video conference.
“The Australian Government has been informed that an Australian citizen, Ms Cheng Lei, has been detained in China,” the statement said. “Formal notification was received on 14th of August from Chinese authorities of her detention.
“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.”
Australian journalists, politicians and commentators have tweeted this morning in support of Lei’s immediate release.
Formally, Lei has not been charged, but she is being held under “residential surveillance” — giving China the legal imperative to question her for up to six months without charge.
Lei’s family told The ABC they were exploring options for her release but would “respect the process”.
“In China, due process will be observed and we look forward to a satisfactory and timely conclusion to the matter.
“We ask that you respect that process and understand there will be no further comment at this time.”
Lei’s two young children are currently residing with family members in Melbourne.
We’ll have more on this story as it unfolds.