11 October 2023 – Today, Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released from a three-year detention in China. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Cheng’s release while she was greeted in Melbourne by Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Cheng’s freedom follows an intense global awareness campaign calling for her release.
Cheng is a former television anchor for the Chinese-state run media outlet CGTN. Cheng was arrested for “illegally supplying state secrets overseas” in August 2020. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Cheng was kept in a cell with limited natural light and fresh air while being masked and restrained during meetings with Australian consular officials. In March 2022, Beijing barred Australian officials from Cheng’s closed-door trial. In August 2023, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Opposition Leader affirmed their commitment to freeing Cheng Lei after she released a public statement from behind bars.
Since Cheng was detained in 2020, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation), United Nations, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many other international organisations highlighted the case of Cheng Lei and rallied for her release.
The CFHK Foundation congratulates these organisations and the Australian government for the release of Cheng Lei while recognising that China continues to be a dangerous place for foreign journalists.
According to Reporters Without Borders, 101 journalists in China and11 journalists in Hong Kong continue to be detained. This includes British citizen Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong, a 75-year-old husband, father and Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper owner who symbolises democracy. Lai’s trial involving National Security Law charges has been delayed twice but is now expected to begin on the 18th of December.
Mark Sabah, UK and EU Director of the CFHK Foundation, said:
“We are delighted to see the news that Cheng Lei has been released from a Chinese prison. We congratulate the Australian government and all those who campaigned and supported her during her detention. The international community must now turn their attention to other political prisoners in China and Hong Kong including Jimmy Lai. We call on the British government to double their efforts to see him freed as soon as possible.”