News World Australian TV presenter Cheng Lei detained in China
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Australian TV presenter Cheng Lei detained in China

Australian Cheng Lei is a high-profile journalist in China as the face of the state-run English news service. Photo: CGTN
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It has been more than a fortnight since Cheng Lei, a high-profile Australian journalist was arrested and thrown into detention in Beijing.

Australia’s government has been informed of her detainment in the Chinese capital amid persistent trade tensions between the two nations.

It is unclear what charges have been laid against the mother-of-two who works as an anchor for China’s state broadcaster CGTN.

Her Chinese state media colleagues grew worried in recent weeks after Ms Cheng stopped responding to their messages.

Little did they know she has been in custody in Beijing for more than two weeks.

On Monday night, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne confirmed Ms Cheng, an Australian citizen, had been detained by China.

Australian diplomats were permitted to speak to her last week via video conference, Senator Payne said in a statement.

“Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Ms Cheng at a detention facility via video link on (Thursday) and will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family,” the statement read.

“Further comment will not be provided owing to the Government’s privacy obligations.”

Cheng Lei (right) on Centre Stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Getty

China-based Australian journalist Stephen McDonnell tweeted that Ms Cheng is being held in a secret location without charge.

An official reason for her detainment has yet to be provided.

Her family said they “are in close consultation with DFAT and doing everything we can … to support Cheng Lei”.

“In China, due process will be observed and we look forward to a satisfactory and timely conclusion to the matter,” they told the ABC, which reported that Ms Cheng’s two young children are in Melbourne.

“We ask that you respect that process and understand there will be no further comment at this time.”

In an online video for the Australia Global Alumni posted two years ago, Ms Cheng described herself as an “anchor for the global business show on CGTN, the China Global Television Network”.

Born in China, she studied commerce at the University of Queensland before working for Cadbury Schweppes and ExxonMobil in Australia.

“The beauty of an Australian education is not about what is taught but more about what it doesn’t teach. It doesn’t teach you to just follow orders, it allows you the freedom to think for yourself, to question … to judge for yourself,” she said.

After moving to China, Ms Cheng – who speaks with a distinct Australian accent – worked for the Chinese state broadcaster, the country’s biggest TV network.

“China is one of those subjects that can be talked up or down any of a number of notches depending on the person’s knowledge and experience.”

Ms Cheng’s detainment follows the detention of Australian man and academic Yang Hengjun.

Senator Payne has previously called for the immediate release of Dr Yang who could face the death penalty if found guilty of spying charges.

The Chinese diplomat went on to become a pro-democracy campaigner and was made an Australian citizen in 2002.

He was detained in January 2019 and has been held since with limited consular contact.

-with AAP