News World Australia calls for observers at Australian journalist Cheng Lei’s espionage trial
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Australia calls for observers at Australian journalist Cheng Lei’s espionage trial

cheng lei trial
No verdict has been handed down in the closed trial in Beijing of Australian journalist Cheng Lei. Photo: ABC
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Australian officials should be allowed to attend the hearing of detained journalist Cheng Lei when she faces trial in China next Thursday, the federal government says.

The Chinese-born Australian citizen has been in detention for more than 18 months on suspicion of illegally communicating state secrets.

Ms Cheng was a high-profile presenter on the state-run China Global Television Network before she was detained in August 2020.

Chinese authorities notified the Australian government she will face trial in Beijing on March 31, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday.

Visited by embassy staff

“The Australian government has regularly raised serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s welfare and conditions of detention,” Ms Payne said in a statement.

“Our officials have visited her regularly, most recently on 21 March.

“We expect basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms.”

Australian officials should be allowed to attend the hearing in line with obligations under a bilateral agreement between the two countries, Ms Payne said.

‘She has done nothing wrong’

Prominent journalists, many of whom worked with Ms Cheng, previously co-signed an open letter calling for her to be returned to Australia so she can be reunited with her family.

“We are confident she has done nothing wrong and hold grave concerns for her health, safety and care during her ongoing detention,” the letter from August 2021 says.

“We are calling for her immediate release and her return home to Australia to be reunited with her children.”

The impending court date comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison says China continues to block “minister-to-minister dialogue” between the countries.

-AAP