Australian journalist of Chinese origin Cheng Lei, 47, faces a very heavy prison sentence. Accused in 2020 of having “leaked state secrets abroad” after her arrest, this famous presenter was to be tried on Thursday March 31 in Beijing before the Number 2 Intermediate People’s Court. This mother of two young children (a girl and a boy living in Australia) is also being prosecuted by Beijing for “criminal activities endangering national security”.
Cheng Lei was a star of the official CGTN channel
Born in China in the central province of Hunan (where Mao was born), Cheng Lei had emigrated with her parents during her childhood before returning to her native country and being hired by Chinese public television in 2012. Beijing does not not recognizing dual nationality, the presenter is Australian only. A well-known face of the CGTN channel, which broadcasts the official point of view of Beijing and the Communist Party abroad, Cheng Lei was very well introduced in business circles and did many interviews with Chinese and foreign business leaders. .
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The day after her arrest in 2020, the presenter’s biography and all broadcasts disappeared from the CGTN channel’s website. “It is a common practice of propaganda”assures a foreign correspondent based in Beijing who is worried about the fate of his colleague. “The Chinese accusations amount to espionage, which is very serious, he points out, but here in the media, we all know that she is the collateral victim of the falling out between China and Australia. »
Australia is worried
Relations between the two countries, at their highest for years, were strained with the appearance of the coronavirus in the city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. Having dared to publicly request that an international investigation be launched to discover the true origins of Covid- 19 in China, Australia paid the price: in retaliation, China completely boycotted all its purchases of raw materials from Australia, but also cereals, meat, wine and seafood.
At the end of 2020, the arrest of Cheng Lei had caused the hasty and incredible departure from China of two Australian journalists fearing that they would be arrested in turn. They had taken refuge for several days in diplomatic premises, before leaving the country accompanied by Australian diplomats.
→ READ. Two Australian journalists forced to flee China
This explains the great concern of the Australian authorities to see their national sentenced to long years in prison. “The Australian government has consistently raised serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s well-being and conditions of detention.Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said in a statement. We expect that the fundamental rules of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment are respected, in accordance with international standards. »