Concern over the health of Chinese-Australian journalist detained in China

Sydney, Australia, Jun 2 (EFE).- The partner of Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei – arrested in China in August 2020 for alleged espionage – on Thursday expressed concerned about her health, and criticized Beijing’s “unacceptable” suspension of consular assistance provided by Canberra.

Lei, 46, who worked for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN and who has Australian nationality, is awaiting her verdict from a Beijing court that tried her for alleged disclosure of secrets to foreign agents.

Her partner, Nick Coyle, said during an interview with Sky News Australia published Thursday that several challenges have emerged related to Cheng’s health that have been aggravated by lack of food.

“Now, there’s been no food restrictions in Beijing … so the idea that, you know, the detention center couldn’t get adequate food – again, it’s not acceptable,” said Coyle, the outgoing head of the China-Australia Chamber of Commerce, regarding the Chinese authorities blaming the situation on Covid-19 restrictions.

Coyle also claimed that the Chinese authorities cite anti-covid restrictions to justify the suspension of monthly visits to Cheng, who faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Under the same pretext, she is also denied regular consular access, and videoconferencing with family.

“These monthly consular visits have literally been what’s kept her going for 20 months,” said Coyle, recalling that the last time he spoke to Cheng was on Aug.13, 2020, when she was going to a birthday celebration, but the next day she no longer answered his calls.

On not getting a reply, Coyle went to Cheng’s apartment, along with a journalist friend who was later also arrested, where he saw that “everything kind of looked normal. Until I could see that all the electronic devices, computers, all those sorts of things were gone.”

“It was pretty obvious to me then what had happened,” he underlined.

Cheng’s partner said he finds it difficult to understand the reasons for the financial journalist’s detention because she was someone who was not involved in politics.

According to the Foreign Press Correspondents Club in China, foreign journalists face “an unprecedented number of obstacles” including “threats of legal action” and “harassment campaigns,” according to a report published in March.

Apart from the television presenter, the Australian government seeks the release of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, arrested in 2019 in China and tried in May 2021 behind closed doors for espionage. His sentence is unknown. EFE


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