Australia asks China to reveal sentence against journo jailed in Beijing

Sydney, Australia, Mar 31 (EFE).- Australia asked China on Friday to reveal the ruling in the process against Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, a year after the closed-door trial in Beijing for the alleged violation of the country’s state secrets reporter.

“Twelve months later, she is still waiting to hear the outcome of the trial. We share the deep concerns of Ms. Cheng’s family and friends about the continuing delays in the case,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

“Australia has always called for Ms. Cheng to be accorded basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment in accordance with international standards,” Wong said, referring to the secret process in which, if found guilty, the journalist faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The sentencing of Cheng’s trial, which took place in March 2022, some 19 months after his arrest in China, is expected to be read on Apr. 19, although it has already been delayed four times, Australian news agency AAP reported Friday.

“We are still not close to a sentence or a schedule. It is a difficult time for everyone,” Nick Coyle, the journalist’s partner, said Friday on the “FreeChengLei” account he manages on Twitter.

Since Cheng’s detention in China on Aug. 13, 2020, Australian authorities have advocated for her well-being and have urged Beijing to give her a fair trial and allow her to contact her family, lawyers and the consular representatives.

However, the journalist, born in 1975, has not had contact with her two children and their parents, who live in Australia, since she was arrested, and her partner said last year the imprisonment has deteriorated her health, especially due to the decrease in food rations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The journalist was detained when she was the host of a television program on Chinese state channel CGTV, and Chinese authorities have not revealed the details of the allegations against her, which Cheng’s relatives say are politically motivated.

The tense relationship between Australia and China is experiencing a moment of lukewarm rapprochement after the recent meetings of representatives of their governments, the first after several years of stagnation. This is thanks to various diplomatic confrontations between the two countries that, nevertheless, maintain extensive bilateral trade.

In addition to the television presenter, the Australian government seeks the release of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, arrested in China in 2019 and tried behind closed doors in May 2021 for espionage, without his sentence being known either. EFE


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