China detains Australian TV anchor with government-run station

Cheng Lei, who works for China's English news channel CGTN, has not been charged but is being held in detention under a 'residential surveillance'.

Journalist Cheng Lei during a broadcast | @ChengLeiCGTN | Twitter
Journalist Cheng Lei during a broadcast | @ChengLeiCGTN | Twitter

Beijing: Chinese authorities have detained an Australian television anchor working with a government-run station as relations worsen between the nations over trade and security concerns.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement Monday evening the government had been been informed on Aug. 14 that Cheng Lei had been detained in China.

Cheng is a journalist and television anchor working for the Chinese Government’s English news channel, CGTN, the ABC reported. Cheng has not been charged, according to the ABC, but is being held in detention under a “residential surveillance at a designated location.” That can involve being held for up to six months without access to a lawyer or other assistance, the ABC said.

Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Cheng at a detention facility via video link on Aug. 27 and will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family, Payne said in the statement.

Cheng’s profile page on CGTN’s site was removed along with videos from her previous stories.

Just last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government revealed it was seeking new powers to veto or scrap agreements that state governments reach with foreign powers, in a move aimed at weakening China’s ability to gain influence in the nation through its Belt and Road Initiative.

While China remains Australia’s largest trading partner, relations have markedly deteriorated since the government in Canberra banned Huawei Technologies Co. from participating in its 5G network and passed a law to stem foreign interference. – Bloomberg

Also read: Australia to get tough with China, block Beijing’s influence through Belt & Road