Chinese-born Australian CCTV journalist detained in China

The CCTV Tower, designed by Rem Koolhaas, in Beijing

Eric Gregory Powell | Stone | Getty Images

A Chinese-born Australian journalist for CGTN, the English-language channel of China Central Television, has been detained in China, Australia’s government said Monday.

Australian officials had a consular visit via video link with Cheng Lei at a detention facility last Thursday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement. They will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family, Payne said.

Australia had been informed by Chinese authorities on Aug. 14 of her detention, but made its first public statement on Monday.

Australia has not said why she was detained.

“Further comment will not be provided owing to the government’s privacy obligations,” Payne said.

Australia in July warned its citizens of a risk of arbitrary detention in China, as relations between the free trade partners have plummeted in recent years. China dismissed the warning as disinformation.

Australia has criticized China for charging Chinese-Australian spy novelist Yang Hengjun with espionage in March.

Australian Karm Gilespie was sentenced to death in China in June, seven years after he was arrested and charged with attempting to board an international flight with more than 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds) of methamphetamine. Some observers suspect that such a severe sentence so long after the crime was related to the bilateral rift.

Cheng is an anchor for the BizAsia program. She was born in China and worked in finance in Australia before returning to China and starting a career in journalism with CCTV in Beijing in 2003.

She has reported on major Chinese events including Beijing’s 2008 Olympics and Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo.

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