/ 12 October 2023

A happy homecoming

Image source: Flickr
Image source: Flickr

The Squiz

Cheng Lei is back on home soil in Melbourne after spending more than 3 years in a Chinese prison. PM Anthony Albanese made the surprise announcement at a press conference, saying the Chinese TV anchor had been met at the airport by Foreign Minister Penny Wong before being reunited with her partner Nick Coyle and 2 young children. In a Twitter post, Cheng thanked Aussies for their support and said “I can see the entirety of the sky now!”

Remind me about her…

Let’s start at the beginning… Cheng was working as a high-profile business news anchor for China’s state broadcaster CGTN when she was taken into custody in August 2020. After being kept in solitary confinement for months and refused access to a lawyer, Cheng was eventually charged with “illegally supplying state secrets overseas”. Last year, her trial went ahead – Australia’s Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher wasn’t allowed entry, the outcome was never made public, and Cheng was never sentenced. She always denied any wrongdoing, and in August this year, a ‘love letter’ she wrote to Aussies outlined how much she missed her family and shed some light on the tough conditions in prison. The Australian Government repeatedly asked Chinese officials to release her along the way.

It’s great she’s out – but why has she been released?

Albanese kept it brief – he says “her matter was concluded through the legal processes in China”. And while that doesn’t really clarify things, reports noted the government has been working to rebuild Australia’s fractured relationship with China. Wong’s also pushed for Cheng’s release with her Chinese counterpart, and Albanese’s raised it with President Xi Jinping – he’d hinted that some progress had been made behind the scenes. But Cheng’s not the only Aussie they were advocating for… Writer/democracy activist Yang Hengjun remains in China after he was detained in similar circumstances in 2019. Albanese says they continue to “advocate for Dr Yang’s interests, rights and wellbeing with Chinese authorities at all levels”.

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