Cheng Lei, a Chinese Australian journalist who has been jailed in China for three years, detailed her detention conditions in an open letter to her partner, Nick Coyle.
“A love letter to 25 million people”: On the three-year anniversary of her detention, Cheng, 48, described her nostalgia and longing for her family and life in Australia in a note she described as “a love letter to 25 million people,” reported Reuters.
In the letter, Cheng recalled the kindness of people and how the memories of such kindness have “restored her” behind bars. While she misses nature, such as the beach and the blue skies of Western Australia, Cheng noted that she misses her children “most of all.” In the three years she has been locked up, her daughter has reportedly entered high school, while her son will soon follow, according to Coyle.
Reliving memories: Cheng also described her lonely living conditions in jail, which have led her to constantly reminisce upon past memories.
“I miss the sun. In my cell, the sunlight shines through the window but I can stand in it for only 10 hours a year. I can’t believe I used to avoid the sun when I was living back in Australia… It’ll probably rain the first two weeks I’m back in Melbourne. I haven’t seen a tree in three years… I relive every bushwalk, river, lake, beach with swims and picnics and psychedelic sunsets. I secretly mouth the names of places I’ve visited and driven through.”
About Cheng’s arrest: Cheng worked for China’s state broadcaster CGTN when she was detained in August 2020 for allegedly sharing state secrets. She faced a closed-door trial in Beijing in March 2022 after being detained for over 19 months. The trial ended in less than a day, with the court deferring its verdict. The details of her alleged crimes have not been made public, and Cheng has yet to receive a verdict.
Australian Foreign Minister’s statement: On Friday, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that Cheng’s message to the public “makes clear her deep love for our country,” adding that the nation will continue to advocate for her interests and well-being.
“All Australians want to see her reunited with her children,” Wong said. “Australia has consistently advocated for Ms Cheng, and asked that basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment be met for Ms Cheng.”
Improving relations: Coyle, who remains “hopeful” about the situation, believes that Cheng’s release “would greatly improve the atmospherics with regard to the bilateral relationship at a time where both countries are making efforts to improve relations.”
Australia previously accused China of political interference and intimidation, leading to a diplomatic dispute. However, their relations have been gradually easing with Australia’s new administration.