Cheng Lei

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Australian journalist Cheng Lei is being held in pretrial detention for allegedly endangering national security. Beijing police arrested Cheng on August 14, 2020, amid heightened diplomatic tensions between China and Australia.

Cheng is a business news anchor for the state-run broadcaster China Global Television Network, according to news reports and her Twitter profile at the time of her arrest. The Twitter account was suspended when CPJ reviewed it again in September 2021. 

On August 14, 2020, Chinese authorities detained Cheng, an Australian citizen, and notified the Australian government, according to news reports and a statement from Australia’s Foreign Ministry. According to the statement, Australian officials spoke with Cheng via video link at a detention facility on August 27. After her detention, China Global Television Network removed Cheng’s profile from its webpage and took down many of her stories, according to those news reports. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on September 8 said that Cheng was under investigation for “criminal activity endangering China’s national security,” according to news reports. Neither the news reports nor the Australian Foreign Ministry statement disclosed the name or location of the facility where Cheng is being held. 

In September 2020, Australian journalists Bill Birtles and Mike Smith fled China after the state security officials questioned them about Cheng’s case, as CPJ documented at the time, citing their respective news outlets.

On February 8, 2021, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne released a statement saying that Cheng had been formally arrested after six months in detention on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas. 

On August 13, Payne released another statement, saying that the Australian government was providing consular assistance to Cheng and her family, and that Australian officials had visited her regularly, most recently on July 26. That statement did not specify where Chang is being held. 

CPJ emailed the Beijing National Security Bureau and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment in late 2021, but did not receive any responses.