China prosecutes Australian journalist suspected of spying

China Prosecutes Australian Journalist Suspected of Spying

China tried Australian journalist Cheng Lei for providing state secrets after more than 18 months in prison.

Cheng Lei, 47, a former employee of Chinese television station CGTN, has been detained since August 2020 and issued an arrest warrant in February 2021 on charges of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign countries”.

Cheng Lei’s trial is scheduled to take place in Beijing today in the form of a closed trial. It is not clear if China still makes any accusations against Thanh Loi. However, the journalist could face life in prison if found guilty of serious violations of China’s national security law.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week asked Chinese officials to allow Australian officials to participate in the trial under a consular agreement between the two countries. “We expect the trial to meet the standards of justice, fairness, humane treatment, and international standards,” she said.

Ms. Payne said Australian officials regularly visit Thanh Loi, the last time on March 21. Canberra has previously expressed concern about the welfare and conditions of Thanh Loi’s detention, calling the case “lack of transparency”.

Cheng Lei was born in Hunan, central China, immigrated to Australia as a child and became an Australian citizen. It is possible that she gave up her Chinese citizenship because Beijing does not allow dual citizenship. After returning to China to work for CGTN in 2012, Thanh Loi became a familiar face on CGTN and hosted many interviews with world-famous business leaders.

Cheng Lei’s arrest comes as relations between Australia and China have reached their lowest point in years. Beijing criticized Canberra for using foreign interference laws to block Chinese investments in sensitive sectors, and to test China’s influence on Australians’ lives.

Canberra’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, the disease that first appeared in China at the end of 2019, also angered Beijing.

Weeks before Cheng’s arrest, Australian authorities ransacked the homes of journalists working for China’s state media as part of an investigation into foreign interference.

Two Australian journalists, Bill Birtles and Michael Smith, fled China after being questioned about Cheng Lei. Chinese authorities also detained reporter Haze Fan, a Chinese citizen working for Bloomberg news agency, on charges of endangering national security.

Another Chinese-Australian, writer Duong Hang Quan, has also been accused of espionage by Beijing and is on trial.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.