Cheng Lei, an Australian anchor for Chinese Communist Party-run media outlet China Global Television Network, has been detained by Chinese officials for weeks despite no apparent charge.
Currently being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location,” Cheng’s arrest comes amidst tensions between Australia and China which have dramatically increased following COVID-19. After Australian officials demanded an inquiry into the source of the virus, the Chinese Communist Party sought retribution by placing tariffs on agricultural imports, halting purchases of Australian beef, and cracking down on imports including wine.
Tensions between the two countries, however, had been souring since at least 2018 following scandals involving China’s manipulation of Australian politics.
And Cheng appears to be the latest flashpoint.
An Australian citizen, Cheng has been detained without charge since August 14th, and Chinese officials have could not be reached for comment by Australian media outlet.
Cheng served as a business reporter since 2013 for China Global Television Network (CGTN), a Chinese Communist Party-run media outlet, which now appears to have scrubbed her bio page and previous work from its site.
Cheng’s friends and colleagues became suspicious of her whereabouts when she failed to reply to messages in recent weeks, with the Australian government now confirming that she has been detained.
In a statement from Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne:
Cheng’s family, which includes two young children, have also issued a statement:
The arrest comes on the heels of an ominous July warning from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warning citizens they could face “arbitrary detention” if they visited China.
And Cheng had spoken positively of Australia while praising its government’s education system as part of a promotional video for Australia’s department of foreign affairs: