China detains Australian anchor Cheng Lei over national security issues

Australian anchor, Cheng Lei, gets detained in China on ‘national security’ grounds, deteriorating the already sour relationship between them.

Cheng Lei is an anchor at CGTN (China Global Television Network), China’s English news broadcast channel. China has stated that they have detained Cheng Lei on security grounds, which further worsened the situation between Australia and China. Moreover, China has also warned its citizens to avoid travel to Australia due to its current situation and vice versa.

Cheng Lei detained in China

According to a report by NDTV, China has detained the Australian anchor since August 14. China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, has also stated that the authorities had to take compulsory measures against her on suspicion of criminal activity, affecting national security.

Meanwhile, Cheng Lei is the second high profile Australian National to be detained in China after detaining Australian writer Yang Hengjun in January 2019 on espionage suspicion.

Although nobody has seen Cheng Lei in public since her detention, there were reports of her speaking with Australian diplomats in Beijing. Lei used to conduct interviews for CGTN with international CEOs and guided talks with them.

Other Australian journalists in China rush back home

Two Australian journalists working for the nation’s media outlets in China also rushed out of the country following a diplomatic stand-off.

The two journalists, Bill Birtles, the ABC’s correspondent in Beijing, and Michael Smith, the Australian Financial Review’s Shanghai-based China correspondent, flew back to Sydney.
Before leaving China and heading back to Australia, the two journalists claimed that the Chinese police visited them at their homes after midnight.

The police told them they would probably have to face questioning over a national security case. Both of the men took shelter under the Australian diplomat protection in Beijing after this incident. ABC said Mr. Birtles initially refused to speak to Chinese officials, “citing fears for his safety.” After negotiations between Australian and Chinese officials in Beijing, China’s Ministry of State Security interviewed both journalists.

The two journalists were then allowed to board flights to Australia. Both of them have claimed that they were interrogated regarding Cheng Lei by the security officials in China.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry confirmed Miss Cheng Lei was “suspected of engaging in criminal activities endangering China’s national security.”

It added that Mr. Birtles and Mr. Smith’s conducted questioning was according to the law in the context of a “normal law enforcement action.”

Image courtesy of Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

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