CGTN anchor Cheng Lei is seen in a 2015 broadcast on the network. She was recently detained in China. (YouTube screenshot of CGTN)

China detains state-run CGTN anchor and Australian citizen Cheng Lei

Washington, D.C., August 31, 2020 – Chinese authorities have detained Cheng Lei, an anchor for the state-run, English-language China Global Television Network (CGTN) and an Australian citizen, according to news reports and a statement from Australia’s Foreign Ministry. The statement, issued today, said that the Australian government received word of Cheng’s detention on August 14.

“Chinese authorities must immediately disclose their reasons for holding China Global Television Network anchor and Australian national Cheng Lei, or release her immediately,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “China–the world’s number one jailer of journalists–must make clear whether her detention has anything to do with her media work.”

The Australian Foreign Ministry statement said that Cheng is being held at “a detention facility,” and that consular officials were able to speak with her on August 27 via video link. She has not been charged, and is being held under “residential surveillance,” which allows authorities to hold a person for up to six months before formally arresting them, according to those news reports. Neither the reports nor the Foreign Ministry statement provided any reason for her detention.

Cheng, originally from China, became an Australian citizen in 2003, according to those reports.

China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with at least 48 behind bars as of December 1, 2019, according to CPJ research.