Journalist Cheng Lei freed from China

Journalist Cheng Lei freed from China

Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been freed after spending three years imprisoned in China.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said she had been returned to Australia on Wednesday afternoon.

“When I spoke to Cheng Lei I welcomed her home on behalf of all Australians,” Albanese said.

“The government will continue to provide consular support to Cheng Lei and to her family … our focus remains on her interests and welfare and we are asking for her privacy and that of her family be respected at this time as she adjusts to what has obviously been a very difficult and traumatic period for her in her life.”

Lei was working as a news anchor for the state-owned news channel China Global Television Network when she was detained by security services in August 2020. She was held initially, in “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) – the name of China’s secretive detention network which allows authorities to hold a person without charge for up to six months, and deny access to lawyers, consular services, and family.

RSDL has been characterised by United Nations experts as a form of enforced disappearance with risks of torture.

Cheng was not formally charged until February 2021, when authorities said she was suspected of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas”. Her trial was held in secret more than a year later, and a verdict repeatedly delayed.

At the time journalists from ABC, Nine, Seven, SKY News & Al Jazeera joined with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, to call for her release. Laura Tingle, David Speers, Michael Rowland, Chris Uhlmann, Peter Stefanovic, Mike Amor, Andrew Bolt, Tim Lester, Emily Angwin and Annelise Nielsen all joined with Niki Sava, Kate McClymont, Peter Greste, Annika Smethurst, Miranda Devine and more to voice support for Cheng Lei to be released.

The federal president of MEAA’s Media section, Karen Percy, today “Australian journalists and press freedom advocates will be celebrating that our colleague Cheng Lei has finally been united again with her children in Melbourne.

“From the day she was arrested, her fellow journalists at MEAA have campaigned for her release.

“We have always believed that the charges against her had no substance, and that if due legal process was followed she would be found innocent.

“Meanwhile, she has languished in a jail far from her family and friends for more than three years.

“But today is not a time for recriminations but for celebration that justice has finally been done.

“We commend the advocacy of the Albanese Government and especially Foreign Minister Penny Wong for doggedly pursuing this case. To all the journalists and press freedom supporters who took part in the campaign to free Ms Cheng, thank you.

“But most of all, this is a moment of joy for Ms Cheng’s family in Melbourne, her mother and her two young children who she has not seen for three years, and for her partner Nick Coyle, who has left no stone unturned as he sought to have her freed.”

Albanese said he spoke with Cheng when she landed in Melbourne to “welcome her home”.

“She is a very strong and resilient person though, and when I spoke with her she was delighted to be back in Melbourne.”

Another Australia detained on national security charges, democracy activist and blogger, Dr Yang Hengjun, has not been released.

Source: Guardian Australia