Journalist Cheng Lei ‘endangered national security’, China says

Journalist Cheng Lei 'endangered national security', China says
It is unclear what "criminal activity" Cheng Lei has allegedly committed. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: China has said that an Australian journalist named Cheng Lei detained in the country for weeks is being held on national security grounds.

Cheng Lei was a presenter for China Global Television Network (CGTN). She is suspected of “criminal activity endangering China’s national security”.

The journalist has been detained since 14 August.

The announcement comes after the last two Australian journalists working in China left the country to Sydney after a five-day diplomatic stand-off.

The Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) Mike Smith and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Bill Birtles landed in Sydney on Tuesday.

Chinese authorities questioned both of them before their departure. The ABC reported Birtles was “not asked about his reporting or conduct in China” but instead about Ms Cheng.

Relations between China and Australia have deteriorated in recent years.

In the past, there had been allegations of Chinese interference in Australian society, but ties worsened after Australia backed an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said a record 17 foreign journalists were expelled from the country in the first half of 2020.

Cheng Lei is an Australian citizen based in Beijing. She is a high-profile, respected business journalist for English-language channel CGTN.

Suddenly disappeared from television in August and cut off contact with friends and relatives. China eventually announced she was being held under “residential surveillance” in an unknown location.

No charges against her were announced at the time. But now Zhao Lijian, foreign ministry spokesman, said the government detained her on “national security grounds”, saying authorities had taken “compulsory measures” against her. He added that an investigation is now under way.

Mr Lijian gave no details about the accusations, and it is unclear what “criminal activity” she is alleged to have committed.

You may read: Australian journalists flown out of China ‘amid diplomatic standoff’