The National Press Club of Australia welcomes the return of Australian journalist Cheng Lei to her home and family in Melbourne after more than three years in detention in China.
This wonderful news means she can be reunited with her two children and her partner, Nick Coyle. The board of the National Press Club applauds the outcome and the efforts of so many who worked to ensure her release.
Cheng, a journalist with the Chinese state TV network CGTN, was detained in August 2020 and remained in detention for more than three years. Her sentencing was delayed more than six times after her trial. On Wednesday, Chinese authorities deported her after issuing a sentence of two years and 11 months and taking into account time already served.
Thank you to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Foreign Minister Penny Wong and the Australian ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, for the diplomatic work required to achieve this result. We appreciate the hard work by those in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in other parts of the government, and outside government, to help Cheng Lei. We also thank the Opposition and all members of parliament who spoke up for Cheng Lei.
Now she is home, we look forward to seeing her in Canberra one day. We would love to hear her address the National Press Club when she is ready.
While we are delighted at Cheng Lei's return to Australia, we maintain our concern at the treatment she received in detention and the fact that she did not receive an open trial. We feared for her health, safety, and security while she was in detention. Reports in 2021 indicated 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.
In August 2021, the National Press Club called for her release from detention so she could return to Australia and her family. In March 2022, the National Press Club joined with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the National Press Club in Washington DC, the International Federation of Journalists, and the International Association of Press Clubs in calling on Chinese authorities to conduct a fair, open, and public trial.
While Cheng Lei has returned home to Melbourne, others remain in detention in China without fair access to legal representation and diplomatic support. We remain concerned about the treatment of Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who has been detained for four years. Yang was arrested in China in January 2019 and has been charged with espionage. We ask authorities in China to show compassion for our fellow Australian.
We call for his release from detention.
Media Contact: Maurice Reilly, National Press Club of Australia
0415 738 473