Crime & Justice

Australia confirms formal arrest of journalist in China

Sydney, Australia, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- Canberra on Monday confirmed the formal arrest of Australian journalist Cheng Lei in China on suspicion of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas.”

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement that Chinese authorities filed formal charges on Friday against China-born Australian citizen Cheng, a TV anchor for Beijing’s state media outlet CGTN who has been detained since Aug. 13.

“The Australian Government has raised its serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s detention regularly at senior levels, including about her welfare and conditions of detention,” said Payne, adding that Australian embassy officials had visited Cheng six times since her detention.

“We expect basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms,” she said.

In addition to the journalist, China has also held Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun since early 2019 for alleged espionage.

The Chinese-Australian writer, academic, blogger and former Beijing official was detained in January 2019 during his stopover in the city of Canton.

Yang was formally charged with espionage on Aug. 23, 2019 and faces a maximum punishment of death if convicted, in a country known to have an opaque judicial system and a long history of arresting dissidents.

The already strained relations between Canberra and Beijing are under greater pressure since Australia launched an independent investigation this year into the origin of Covid-19, believed to be in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Australia has also passed several laws aimed at preventing foreign interference in its domestic affairs, without directly pointing the finger at China, while the Asian nation has responded by imposing tariffs on some Australian imports.

In the past, Beijing has also criticized the interference of countries such as Australia in its policies in Xinjiang, where the persecuted Muslim Uighur minority lives, in Hong Kong and the disputed waters of the South China Sea. EFE-EPA


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