China: RSF urges for release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei on the third anniversary of her arrest
13 August 2023 marks three years since the arrest of Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei. While the verdict in her trial for "illegally supplying state secrets overseas" has still not been made public, RSF urges the Chinese regime to immediately release her.
Three years ago, on 13 August 2020, Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei, a high-profile business news anchor working for state media group China Global Television (CGTN), was arrested under suspicion of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas", a crime carrying a life sentence. Cheng Lei was tried behind closed doors in March 2022, but, to date, the authorities have still not made her verdict public.
Ahead of the anniversary, Cheng released through Australia’s consular authorities her first public statement from prison, in which she described the harsh conditions of her imprisonment. “In my cell, the sunlight shines through the window, but I can stand in it for only 10 hours a year [...] I haven’t seen a tree in the past three years" Cheng wrote, concluding that most of all she misses her children.
"The arbitrary detention for the past three years of Australian journalist Cheng Lei, under the absurd pretext of espionage, is one more demonstration of the Chinese regime’s absolute disregard for press freedom and the rule of law. We urge the international community to build up pressure on the Chinese authorities to secure Cheng’s release alongside all other journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country.
Three other foreign media professionals are also currently detained in China: Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, founder of a Hong Kong publishing house that specialised in investigative stories on Chinese leaders, who was sentenced in 2020 to ten years in prison for “espionage”, Li Yanhe, a Taiwanese publisher and radio host detained incommunicado since March 2023, and Hong Kong Apple Daily media founder Jimmy Lai, a British national and laureate of RSF’s Press Freedom Prize, detained since December 2020.
Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a full-scale crusade against journalism as revealed in RSF’s report The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China.
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.