“The Chinese authorities have announced that Ms. Cheng has been arrested on suspicion of illegally taking state secrets abroad,” Australian Foreign Minister Maris Payne said in a press release. On February 5, the Chinese authorities informed her of the arrest of Cheng Li, who has been detained without any explanation, since August of last year.
The broadcaster has interviewed business leaders around the world for CGTN’s public television broadcast. The arrest came in a context of increasingly strained bilateral relations between the two countries. Diplomatic relations deteriorated dramatically in early 2020 after Canberra’s call for an international investigation into the origin of the new coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Australia also accuses Beijing of increasing its influence in the Asia-Pacific region and of alleged interference in Australian affairs. China has taken a number of repressive economic measures on a number of Australian products, including barley, beef, wine and charcoal.
According to a statement by Australian Foreign Minister Maryse Payne, Australian diplomats have visited the presenter of the program six times since her arrest, most recently on January 27.
“The Australian government has consistently expressed, at the highest levels, its grave concern about Ms. Cheng’s arrest and health,” he said. “We depend on respecting basic principles of justice, fairness of procedures and humane treatment, in line with international norms,” she added.
Ms Cheng is the second oldest Australian citizen detained in China after writer Yang Hing Jun was arrested in January 2019 on suspicion of espionage.
Translated by Diana Avram after rfi.fr