The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Friday, Feb. 5, made official the arrest of Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, after she was illegally detained for six months without conviction or arguments by the CCP.
After six months of legal claims by Cheng’s family and Australian consular authorities, the CCP confirmed the detention, accusing Cheng of “providing state secrets abroad.”
Cheng, 49, was a news anchor for CGTN, the international version of China’s state propaganda broadcaster, CCTV, until she was finally detained in Beijing in August 2020.
The charge of providing state secrets used by the CCP for Cheng’s detention is difficult to repudiate, is one of the most used by the regime to imprison dissident voices.
Cheng’s detention took place during a diplomatic conflict between the CCP and Australia that has been unresolved for months, and it seems that the CCP is using innocent people as a tool to negotiate or demonstrate its power.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday that the government had repeatedly expressed “serious concerns” to the CCP about Cheng’s detention, including her welfare and detention conditions, which were far from acceptable.
“We expect basic standards of fairness, procedural fairness, and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms,” Payne added.
In response to the minister’s messages, China’s Foreign Ministry after confirming the arrest, sent a warning of sorts to Australian authorities saying, “We hope that Australia will earnestly respect China’s judicial sovereignty and refrain from interfering in China’s law-based handling of cases in any way,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.
The charges on which Cheng was indicted could result in life imprisonment or even death.
Louisa Wen, Cheng’s niece, told Australian public broadcaster ABC that the family was dismayed when they were first notified of her arrest.
“We don’t understand anything about the case,” Wen said. “But we know she has been detained for five and a half months, and her conditions are getting worse.” Cheng, in addition, has two children, ages 11 and 9, who are in the custody of their grandmother in Melbourne, Australia, coping with extreme distress.
Cheng, was the second Australian detained by Chinese authorities since 2019. These detentions coincide with heightened bilateral tensions over issues such as trade, Beijing’s tightening control over Hong Kong, and most recently the Chinese communist regime’s handling of the CCP Virus outbreak, which has been denounced by Australian authorities frequently.
The growing tension between the two countries and threats of such illegal detentions have caused a large number of Australian journalists to flee China in recent months for fear of reprisals for their work.