Penny Wong raises ‘deep concerns’ about the ‘ongoing delays’ of case

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has hit out at the “ongoing delays” in the case of an Australian journalist who has been detained in China for more than two years. 

Cheng Lei, a news anchor for the Chinese government’s English language broadcaster CGTN, was secretly taken from her Beijing home on August 13, 2020.

Six months later, Chinese authorities confirmed Ms Cheng had been arrested and charged on suspicion of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas”.

The mother-of-two faced a closed court trial in the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People’s Court on March 31, 2022 – the outcome of which is yet to be known.

A year to the day since the trial was held, Ms Wong expressed the Albanese government’s “deep concerns” Ms Cheng is still waiting for movements on her case.

The Foreign Minister added the government’s thoughts are with Ms Cheng’s loved ones, including her son and daughter who are in Melbourne. 

“Today marks one year since Australian citizen, Ms Cheng Lei, faced a closed trial in Beijing on national security charges,” Ms Wong said in a statement on Friday. 

“Twelve months on, she is still waiting to learn the outcome of the trial. We share the deep concerns of Ms Cheng’s family and friends about the ongoing delays in her case.

“Our thoughts today are with Ms Cheng and her loved ones, particularly her two children.”

Ms Wong vowed to continue to provide consular assistance to Ms Cheng and her family and renewed calls for Beijing to give the journalist procedural fairness.

“The Australian Government has advocated at every opportunity for Ms Cheng to be reunited with her family,” she said. 

“Australia has consistently called for Ms Cheng to be afforded basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment in accordance with international norms.

“We will continue to provide consular support to Ms Cheng and her family, and to advocate for her interests and wellbeing.”

Chinese authorities have been tight lipped on Ms Cheng’s case ever since she was detained. 

In August last year on the two year anniversary of Ms Cheng’s detention, China provided scant detail about her trial, only noting she and her lawyer were present in court.

“Currently, the case is under trial and the court will pass the judgment in due course,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters. 

“The Chinese judicial authorities have handled the case in accordance with law, fully protected Cheng Lei’s litigation rights under the law.

“And respected and facilitated the Australian side’s exercise of its consular rights including visiting the defendant and staying informed.” 

Ms Cheng’s partner Nick Coyle this week urged Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to raise the journalist’s case with authorities during his visit to China.

However, Mr Andrews said he would not discuss the matter while on his trip, arguing it was “best dealt with by the Australian foreign service”. 

Acting Premier Jacinta Allan added on Tuesday it was “quite a sensitive matter” and reiterated “matters of this nature are exclusively dealt with by the Commonwealth government”. 

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