Crime & Justice

Chinese court approves sentencing of journalist’s espionage trial

Beijing, Mar 31 (EFE).- The trial of Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei for alleged “revelation of secrets to foreign agents,” was allowed to go for sentencing and will conclude in the next few days, with punishments ranging between five years in prison and life imprisonment.

Cheng, 46, has been detained in China for 19 months and worked for state television network CGTN. She attained Australian citizenship despite being born in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday at that department’s daily press conference that the trial was held and “the court will decide on a scheduled date.”

Wang also said “cases involving state secrets cannot be tried publicly” and called for “respect for China’s judicial sovereignty” and that other parties not interfere “in any way in the handling of cases by the organs courts” of the country.

The spokesman’s words come in response to protests by Graham Fletcher, Australian ambassador in Beijing, who tried unsuccessfully Thursday to agree to the journalist’s trial at the capital’s No. 2 Intermediate Court.

“This is deeply worrying, unsatisfactory and unfortunate,” the diplomat said in statements to the press gathered at the scene, who said one cannot trust “in the validity of a process that takes place in secret.”

Fletcher said his country would continue advocating for Cheng’s rights and interests, based on an existing consular agreement between Australia and China.

The Australian government had requested that its representatives in China be allowed to attend the trial, in which the case will most likely be seen for sentencing but the conviction will not be known for days or even weeks.

For now, the only detail that has emerged from the trial is that Cheng appeared completely covered in a protective suit to prevent Covid-19.

From Australia, the journalist’s family – the mother of a girl and a boy with whom she apparently has not had contact since her arrest – issued a statement saying how much they miss her and hope to be able to meet her as soon as possible.

In February, the Foreign Press Correspondents’ Club of China said in a report that foreign journalists face “an unprecedented number of obstacles” including “threats of legal action” and “campaigns of bullying.”

A month after Cheng’s arrest in August 2020, Australia pulled all of its correspondents from China over fears they would be arbitrarily detained amid rising bilateral tensions between Beijing and Canberra.

The club said at the time that China was “using foreign journalists as pawns in diplomatic disputes.” EFE


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