After spending more than three years in detention in China on suspicion of espionage, 48-year-old Australian journalist Cheng Lei has now returned to Melbourne. Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, announced her release. In August 2020, Cheng, a well-known television host for the Chinese state-run CGTN, was taken into custody.
PM Anthony Albanese shared the information
“I’m happy to report that Ms. Cheng Lei has safely returned to Australia, where she is now reunited with her two kids and her family. This afternoon, I spoke with her on the phone. The Australian government has long sought this result, said Albanese.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong greeted Cheng Lei, a Chinese national, upon her arrival at Melbourne International Airport, signaling the end of a trying time for her family. Her return was hailed as a success because the Australian government had been working hard to secure her freedom for a while.
Return of Lei indicates the improving bilateral ties between Australia and China
The release of Cheng Lei is viewed as a potential move in the right direction for bilateral ties between Australia and China. Due to a number of factors, including Australia’s request for a global inquiry into the causes of the COVID-19 epidemic, which led to trade restrictions from Beijing, these ties had become strained. Later this year, Prime Minister Albanese will travel to China, which could be part of an effort to defuse diplomatic tensions between the two nations. On the fringes of a regional forum, he had a meeting with Premier Li Qiang in September, and both men agreed to strengthen bilateral relations and exchanges.
Insisting that Cheng Lei’s release was made possible by Chinese legal procedures, Penny Wong suggested that her return was the outcome of a solution within the Chinese legal system.
Cheng was detained in 2020
In 2020, Cheng, a Beijing-based employee, unexpectedly vanished, raising questions among international journalists and expats in China. She wasn’t officially detained until afterward on suspicion of dishonestly providing state secrets to unnamed foreigners.
In 2022, Cheng was charged by China’s foreign ministry with disclosing “state secrets to foreign countries,” a crime that carries the death penalty or perhaps life in jail in China. According to Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, the case was determined to entail state secrets, which called for a closed session trial in accordance with Chinese law.
Lei highlighted her difficulties through a letter
During her arrest, Cheng expressed her longing for her children, ages 11 and 14, who were living in Melbourne with their grandmother, in a moving letter she wrote from prison in August. In her letter, she outlined her precarious circumstances, writing, “In my cell, the sunlight shines through the window, but I can stand in it for only 10 hours a year.” Her first public comment after her imprisonment, this letter, provided insight into the difficulties she encountered while incarcerated.
The release of Cheng Lei is an important event in Australia and China’s intricate relationship. Foreign nationals’ arrest has been a difficult topic that frequently causes strained diplomatic relations, especially when individuals detained have connections to journalism or activism. The release of Cheng Lei could serve as an encouraging case study on how to resolve disputes through legal and diplomatic channels.
It is unclear how the two nations would handle their complicated relationship as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese prepares to travel to China. For the purpose of tackling issues like public health, trade, and regional stability, improved bilateral ties and cooperation are crucial.
The end of a protracted and difficult period of being apart from her family and friends is marked by Cheng Lei’s return to her native country.