Sydney, Australia, Sep 1 (EFE).- China has detained an Australian journalist and host on Chinese state-run television on charges still unknown, the Australian foreign ministry has confirmed, an incident that can potentially further deteriorate the already frosty ties between the two countries.
“The Australian government has been informed that an Australian citizen, Cheng Lei, has been detained in China. Formal notification was received on 14 August 2020 from Chinese authorities of her detention,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Monday night.
The minister said Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Cheng Lei at a detention facility via video link on Aug. 27
“(We) will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family,” Payne said.
Australian media reported that the Chinese authorities have detained Cheng Lei, who has worked with Chinese international broadcaster CGTN for eight years, in a guarded home at an unknown location.
The Australian public broadcaster, ABC, reported that Cheng had not been charged as yet.
She is being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location”, which allows the authorities to keep detainees in secretive custody for up to six months and deny visits by family members or lawyers, according to ABC.
The journalist, who has covered business matters for the English news channel, has two children, who are with their family members in Melbourne.
Cheng’s arrest comes after Chinese-Australian writer, academic, blogger, and former Beijing official Yang Hengjun was held in January last year during his stopover in the Chinese city of Canton.
Yang was formally charged with espionage on Aug. 23 last year and faces a maximum punishment of death if convicted in the country known to have an opaque judicial system.
The journalist’s arrest has again tested Australia’s ties with China, a country that has a long history of arresting dissidents.
Tensions between the two countries escalated after Australia called for a “transparent” investigation into the origin of the novel coronavirus, as well as China’s handling of the pandemic.
Within days of the proposal, Chinese ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, suggested a possible boycott of Australian products, such as meat and wines, as well as services. EFE