CANBERRA – A Chinese-born Australian journalist working for Chinese state television has been detained by authorities in China, Australia's government says.
Australian officials had a consular visit via video link with Cheng Lei at a detention facility last Thursday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement Monday. They will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family, Payne said.
Australia had been informed by Chinese authorities on Aug. 14 of her detention, but made its first public statement on Monday.
Australian authorities have said they do not know why she was detained and declined to give further information, citing privacy concerns. Cheng wored for CGTN, the English-language channel of China Central Television,
On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said she had no information about Cheng's situation, but accused Canberra of bowing to “pressure from allies,” in an apparent reference to China’s main rival, the U.S.
Cheng's detention comes amid a major downturn in China's relations with Australia, a major source of the natural resources needed for its manufacturing-based economy, but also a close ally of the U.S., with which China is engaged in a competition for military dominance in the South China Sea among other sources of tensions.
Ties between Australia and China have soured in recent years over issues from market access for Chinese tech giant Huawei, to allegations of Chinese meddling in Australia’s domestic politics and Canberra"s support for an independent investigation into the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic that is believed to have started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
“Also I would like to stress that as China acts in accordance with law, unlike certain countries, we will not bow to pressure from allies and engage in something illegal in the name of law,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.