Cheng Lei

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Australian journalist Cheng Lei is being held in a Chinese Ministry of State Security facility in Beijing awaiting the outcome of a secret trial for endangering national security in March 2022. 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. Her Twitter account has since been suspended.

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. 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. 

An Australian government statement in February 2021 said that Cheng had been formally arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas. In August 2022, another statement announced that Cheng had been secretly tried in Beijing on March 31 but had not been informed of the verdict. 

Cheng’s boyfriend Nick Coyle told CPJ that her eyesight is deteriorating and she is malnourished. Cheng’s lawyer and Australian consular officials in Beijing only meet her via video call, he said. 

In September 2022, CPJ emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Council seeking new information on Cheng’s case, but did not receive any response.