China: Australian journalist released after 3 years arbitrary detention
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved that Australian journalist Cheng Lei arrived home safely after more than three years of arbitrary detention in China, and calls on democracies to step up pressure for the regime to release all 113 press freedom defenders still detained.
On 11 October 2023, Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei, a high-profile business news anchor working for state media group CGTN (China Global Television), was released and sent back home to Australia after over three years of arbitrary detention on alleged espionage charges. Cheng Lei was arrested on 13 August 2020 under suspicion of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas", a crime carrying a life sentence in China.
“The liberation of Cheng Lei is good news, but the Chinese regime still detains 113 press freedom defenders, including two foreign media workers. We call on democracies to step up pressure for the regime to obtain their immediate release.
The Chinese regime still arbitrarily detains two foreign media professionals, namely Australian political commentator Yang Hengjun and Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, imprisoned in life-threatening conditions.
Yang Hengjun, who in the past published several articles critical of the Chinese regime in the prominent international affairs magazine The Diplomat, was arrested in January 2019 for “espionage” and trialled in May 2021, while the verdict announcement has been repeatedly delayed. Gui Minhai, who was kidnapped by the Chinese regime in Thailand in 2015, was sentenced in February 2020 to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing state secrets and intelligence overseas”.
Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a large-scale crusade against journalism, as revealed in RSF’s report published in December 2021 The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, which details Beijing’s efforts to control information and media within and outside its borders.
China ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 113 detained.