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She was a TV journalist in China before her arrest

Originally published on Global Voices

Media groups are urging the public to sign an open letter calling for the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei. Source: MEAA

At least 50 journalists and media groups in Australia have signed a letter urging the Chinese government to release Australian journalist Cheng Lei.

Lei was arrested on August 13, 2020, in China on the “suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.” Prior to her arrest, she was a business journalist working as a TV presenter for the state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN).

She was arrested in a period of escalating diplomatic tensions between China and Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic and human rights concerns.

After a year of detaining Cheng Lei, Chinese authorities have yet to present evidence against the journalist.

This prompted former colleagues of Cheng Lei in Australia to draft an open letter to Beijing calling for the release of the journalist.

We are confident she has done nothing wrong and hold grave concerns for her health, safety and care during her ongoing detention.

We are concerned about the chilling affect her arrest has on the practice of journalism, which has never been more critical.

Australia’s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is among the letter’s signatories:

Her arrest, her detention and the accusations against her have never been explained. No evidence has been presented. After 12 months, there has been nothing to suggest she has done anything wrong. MEAA members, and journalists around the world, stand with Cheng Lei.

The National Press Club of Australia linked Cheng Lei’s arrest with rising cases of persecution targeting foreign journalists in China:

This makes her one of many journalists detained in China at the same time the Chinese government expels foreign correspondents or denies them entry to the country, suppressing press freedom.

The National Press Club of the United States also issued a statement of support for Cheng Lei:

China has tried to make Cheng disappear, but the world has not forgotten about her or the several dozen other reporters unjustly jailed in China.

Cheng Lei’s friends and former colleagues posted messages of support on Twitter:

Cheng Lei’s friends are asking China to have compassion by reuniting the journalist with her two children in Australia. Cheng Lei has had no communication with her family and is not allowed to have visitors except Australian consular officials once a month.

If found guilty, Cheng Lei could face a prison term of at least five to ten years.

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