Australia says journalist arrested in China after months-long detention

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Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been formally arrested in China after six months of detention on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday.

Cheng, who hosted a business show on the English channel of China’s largest state media broadcaster CCTV and was a high-profile anchor on its English-language channel CGTN, was arrested on Feb. 5, Payne said. She was initially detained in August last year.

Payne said the Australian government “has raised its serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s detention regularly at senior levels, including about her welfare and conditions of detention.”

Tensions between Australia and China have been high for the past year, after Canberra called for an international investigation into the source of the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing responded with trade reprisals.

Payne said officials had visited Cheng, who has two children living in Australia, six times during her detention, most recently at the end of January.

READ ALSO:  Australia's COVID-19 hotspot cases inch up, but officials optimistic

In the days after Cheng’s August detention was made public, two Australian foreign correspondents were flown out of China, helped by Australian consular officials after the pair were questioned by China’s state security ministry.

China’s Foreign Ministry subsequently revealed that Australia’s security agency had questioned Chinese journalists working in Australia.

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