Australian citizen, Cheng Lei, has been formally arrested in China for allegedly supplying state secrets overseas, an act condemned by the Chinese government as illegal.
Ms Cheng, who was arrested on Monday, is an employee of China’s state broadcaster China Global Television Network for the past 8 years.
According to a statement by Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, the mother of two was detained August 13, 2020 over the suspicion.
It reads, “The Australian Government was informed by Chinese authorities to our embassy in Beijing, that Australian citizen Cheng Lei has been formally arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.
“She has been (detained) in China since August 2020 and we raise concerns about attention regularly at the most senior levels. We continue seeking assurances of her being treated appropriately, humanely and in accordance with international standards.”
All references to Cheng, a former business anchor on CGTN has been erased from the outfit’s website and social media.
Australian consular officials have visited Cheng regularly since she was detained, most recently on January 27, 2021.
“We will stay in close touch with the Chinese authorities, as that progresses and… provide all possible support,” Paynre promised.
Asked about Cheng’s detention last year, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “China is a country under the rule of law, and we will act in accordance with the law.”
Cheng’s original detention came amid rapidly worsening ties between Canberra and Beijing. After Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, China targeted it over trade, slapping products with tariffs and blocking acquisitions by Australian companies.
Following Cheng’s detention, two Australian journalists working in China fled the country after authorities attempted to question them on national security grounds, leaving Australia’s media without any journalists working in China for the first time in nearly 50 years