The Board of the National Press Club of Australia calls for the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei from detention in China so she can return home to her family.
We ask authorities in China to show compassion for our fellow journalist.
Cheng Lei is an experienced television presenter known to her friends and colleagues for her work over many years, including for CNBC and state broadcaster China Global Television Network in Beijing. Her family in Australia includes two young children, aged 9 and 11, who have not seen her for more than one year.
We are gravely concerned that she has been held in detention without facing an open court since being detained on August 13 last year.
Chinese authorities have told the Australian government that Ms. Cheng was arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas. She has not been charged. 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.
We fear for Cheng Lei’s health, safety and security. The ABC reported in April that her online meetings with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade included arrangements where she was brought into the room blindfolded, masked and handcuffed by four guards. The ABC reported that she was made to sit in a chair with a wooden restraint across her lap before her blindfold and face mask were removed for the video meeting.
The National Press Club has argued consistently for the freedom of the press and has called on the Australian government in the past to respect public-interest journalism. We ask other governments to do the same. We regard the treatment of Cheng Lei as a grave threat to an Australian journalist. We call for her release from detention so she can return to Australia and her family.
On behalf of the Board of the National Press Club of Australia.