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Australian journalist Cheng Lei formally arrested in China

The Chinese government has formally charged Australian journalist Cheng Lei with “illegally supplying state secrets overseas”, almost half a year after she was first detained.

 Australian journalist Cheng Lei

Australian journalist Cheng Lei. Photo: AFP

Cheng Lei has been held since August last year under a form of detention that allows Chinese police to imprison and question a suspect for up to six months without access to lawyers.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Chinese authorities advised Australia late last week that they had formally charged Cheng, meaning an official investigation into her conduct would now begin.

“We have consistently raised concerns (about Cheng Lei) regularly at the most senior levels,” Payne said.

“We have made a number of consular visits to her as part of our bilateral consular agreement – the most recent of those was on the 27th of January – and we continue to seek assurances of her being treated appropriately, humanely and in accordance with international standards, and that will continue to be the case.”

Lei was working as a high profile anchor for China’s state-run English language news service, CGTN.

Payne said the charges against Lei were “broad” and she expected the investigation to continue for months.

When asked if the Australian government believed the allegations against Lei were baseless, she said Australia was “seeking further advice in relation to the charges”.

Lei has two young children living with her family in Melbourne.

Last year, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Lei was “suspected of carrying out criminal activities endangering China’s national security”, but did not provide any further details.


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