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HomeNewsJailed Australian journalist pens 'love letter' home – DW – 08/11/2023

Jailed Australian journalist pens ‘love letter’ home – DW – 08/11/2023

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An Australian journalist who has been detained in China since 2020 on vague national security charges has written what she called a “love letter to 25 million people” in Australia.

Cheng Lei’s statement, released by her partner on Thursday evening after being dictated to consular staff, describes her dire prison conditions and her yearning for her children.

Her detention came as diplomatic relations between Australia and China were at a low ebb and remains a point of friction between the two nations as tensions ease.

What did Cheng write?

“In my cell, the sunlight shines through the window, but I can stand in it for only 10 hours a year,” wrote Cheng, 48, who moved to Australia when she was 10 years old and returned to China in around 2000.

“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.”

“Most of all I miss my children,” the letter ends.

Cheng’s children are aged 11 and 14 and are living in Australia with their grandmother.

Why has she been detained?

Cheng, who was an anchor for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, was detained in August 2020, though she was formally arrested only in February 2021.

A trial more than a year ago in a closed court in Beijing, to which even the Australian ambassador was denied access, failed to deliver any verdict. No precise details of the accusations against her have been made public, but she is charged with allegedly sharing state secrets with another country.  

The Australian government has repeatedly raised concerns about her detention, to which China has responded by saying that Canberra should respect Beijing’s judicial sovereignty.

Nick Coyle
Cheng’s partner, Nick Coyle, released the letter on the messaging platform X, formerly TwitterImage: Sky News Australia via AP Photo/picture alliance

What have Australian officials said?

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement on Friday that “Australia has consistently advocated for Ms Cheng, and asked that basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment be met for Ms. Cheng.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who could accept an invitation to visit Beijing this year, told reporters the same day that Cheng’s case “should be resolved,” adding that he had raised the matter in previous talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Cheng’s case has often been compared with that of Chinese-born Australian writer Yang Jun, who has been detained in China since 2019. Yang is facing vaguely worded espionage charges.

tj/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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