Renowned Chinese State News Anchor Detained With No Explanation

Cheng Lei

A renowned news anchor at a Chinese state-run TV network was reportedly detained by Chinese authorities over two weeks ago, ABC reports.

Anchor-turned-detainee: Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen working for broadcaster CGTN (China Global Television Network), is being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location,” according to claims.

  • Having not heard from her in recent weeks, Lei’s family has been in close consultation with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • While the Chinese government has yet to confirm Lei’s status, it is known that a suspect in China can be imprisoned and questioned by investigators for up to six months without any charge.
  • Australia’s foreign ministry, which was notified of Lei’s detention on August 14, released a statement saying that it is committed to providing assistance and support to her family.
  • Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said they have conducted a virtual consular visit with Lei via a video link on August 27. 
  • Lei’s friends and family are now hoping for “a satisfactory and timely conclusion” for her current ordeal. 
  • Lei has two young children in Australia.

Years of service erased: For nearly a decade, Lei has worked for CGTN, an international English-language news channel owned by state-run broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

  • Prior to her detention, Lei hosted a show on global business for CGTN.
  • She has previously worked for CNBC Asia as a correspondent in China.
  • Upon her reported detention, Lei’s profile on CGTN’s website was removed, along with her articles for the network.

Escalating tensions: Lei’s alleged detention comes amid the souring relations between China and Australia that has been going on for months, according to BBC.

  • The current tensions between the two countries purportedly started following Australia’s calls for an official investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China.
  • Meanwhile, China announced on Monday that it is set to conduct its second investigation into imports of Australian wine. 
  • Australia, on the other hand, stated that it is going to pass legislation that would allow them to cancel local government deals with foreign countries.
  • While not particularly aimed at China, observers say the timing indicates that it might be so. 
  • Back in July, the Australian government warned that Australian citizens are at increased risk of detention in China.

Feature Image via Australia Global Alumni

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