Australian journalist Cheng Lei to face trial in Chinese court


Australian journalist Cheng Lei, will face court in Beijing next week on state secrets charges after being detained for more than 19 months, Australia’s foreign minister on Saturday.

Ms. Cheng, who worked as a television anchor for Chinese state media before being detained in 2020, was formally arrested a year ago on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Saturday that Chinese authorities had notified Canberra Ms.Cheng would face trial on Thursday.

Reuters and other media on Friday reported the scheduled trial, citing sources. Ms. Payne said her ministry had asked that Australian officials be allowed to attend Ms. Cheng’s hearing in line with a consular agreement between the two nations.

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

Cheng will be tried in the Beijing No 2 People’s Intermediate Court at 9am next Thursday, two sources told Reuters earlier this week.

Australia has previously said it was concerned by what it said was a “lack of transparency” over the case, and Ms. Cheng’s family have said they are convinced she is innocent.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on Saturday. It has previously said that Ms. Cheng’s rights would be fully guaranteed.

Ms. Cheng was born in China but moved with her parents to Australia as a child, before building a television career in China first with CNBC and later as a television anchor for China’s English-language channel CGTN.

The trial comes as diplomatic relations between Australia and China remain tense, after Canberra urged an international probe into the source of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and Beijing responded with trade reprisals. (Source: CNA)