Calls to free Australian jailed in China

Cheng Lei has been held by Chinese authorities since August 2020.

Cheng Lei has been held by Chinese authorities since August 2020. Photo: AAP

Friends and colleagues of an Australian journalist detained in China for a year have launched a new campaign to urge her immediate release.

Friday marks 12 months since Cheng Lei, whose family has maintained her innocence, was detained in Beijing on suspicion of illegally communicating state secrets.

The TV news anchor was a high-profile presenter on the state-run China Global Television Network before her arrest.

Prominent journalists, many of whom worked with Cheng, have co-signed an open letter calling for her to be returned to Australia so she can be reunited with her family.

“We are confident she has done nothing wrong and hold grave concerns for her health, safety and care during her ongoing detention,” they wrote.

“We are concerned about the wellbeing of her beloved children, aged 10 and 12. They have been separated from her for well over a year now and she’s had no contact with them since her arrest.”

Australia’s National Press Club and its Washington equivalent have also issued statements urging the Chinese government to release Cheng.

National Press Club chief executive Maurice Reilly noted reports she was brought in to online meetings with Australian officials blindfolded, masked and handcuffed.

She was made to sit in a chair with a wooden restraint across her lap before her blindfold and mask were removed.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong joined the government’s calls for acceptable standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment.

“Our thoughts are with Ms Cheng, her friends and family – particularly her two children,” Senator Wong said.

“Labor holds serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s detention and her welfare.”

She said the opposition supported efforts to provide the detained journalist with regular consular assistance, as well as ongoing assistance for her family.


Topics: China
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