Australia's PM Albanese makes case for journalist detained in China


Cheng Lei

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urged the Chinese government on Wednesday to improve the treatment of an Australian journalist detained in China for two years and give her access to her children.

Accused of providing state secrets to a foreign government, Cheng Lei, 46, is still awaiting a Beijing court’s verdict following a closed-door trial in March. Australian consular officials were blocked from attending the trial.

Before being detained in August 2020, Cheng was a business news television anchor for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.

Cheng’s family have said her two children and elderly parents, who live in Australia, have been unable to have any contact with her since she was detained.

“Cheng Lei should have access to her family. Australia continues to make representation and we have a very strong view about her treatment,” Albanese told reporters.

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“The Chinese Government needs to do better,” he added.

In a television interview with ABC’s 7:30, China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, said on Tuesday he had sympathy “to her family, her kids, and her relatives”, and was trying to facilitate easier access based on “humanitarian considerations”.

She was born in China and moved with her parents to Australia as a child. Later she returned to China to build a television career first with CNBC, starting in 2003, and in 2012 she joined China’s English-language CGTN.

The foreign ministers of Australia and China met in July for the first time in three years, on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Bali, after the election of a Labor government.

Relations between the two major trading partners have been strained after China put sanctions on Australian products from coal to wine, and Australia urged an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and put a 5G network ban on telecoms giant Huawei.

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