A Chinese-born Australian news anchor has been formally arrested after six months of detention.
Cheng Lei, a news anchor for Chinese state-owned English-language news channel China Global Television Network (CGTN), was detained in August 2020 on suspicion of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas.”
In a statement released on Monday, February 8, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Cheng Lei, who has been detained in China since August 13, 2020, had been formally arrested on February 5.
“Chinese authorities have advised that Ms Cheng was arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas,” Payne said, adding that “the Australian Government has raised its serious concerns about Ms. Cheng’s detention regularly at senior levels, including about her welfare and conditions of detention.”
Amid the ongoing diplomatic and trade tensions between the two countries, Payne also revealed that Australian embassy officials had visited Cheng six times since her detention, most recently on 27 January.
She said the Australian government had “raised its serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s detention regularly at senior levels, including about her welfare and conditions of detention”.
Payne said Australia expected “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms”.
Louisa Wen, Cheng’s niece and a spokeswoman for the family, told ABC’s 7.30 program said it’s unclear to her why her aunt had been caught up in.
“I don’t think she would have done anything to harm national security in any way intentionally. We don’t know if she’s just been caught up in something that she herself didn’t realise.”
Wen said Cheng’s children, aged nine and 11, were currently living with their grandmother in Melbourne.
“Grandma is in her mid-70s and looking after the two by herself, especially over the Covid period last year … it hasn’t exactly been very easy on her,” she said.
Wen said she hoped the Australian government could do more and also called on the Chinese government to show more compassion and to remember Cheng is “a mother with two young kids, who really need her, and we’d love her to come home as soon as possible”.