Speed up journalist’s verdict: Australia asks China

The fact that Australian journalist Cheng Lei has yet to receive word of a decision a year after facing charges related to national security in China continues to worry Australia, according to the foreign minister on Friday.

The government of foreign minister Penny Wong “advocated at every opportunity for Ms Cheng to be reunited with her family,” she said in a statement to mark the first anniversary of the closed trial in Beijing.

She is still awaiting the verdict of the case, according to Wong. “We share the family’s and friends’ deep concerns about the ongoing delays in Ms Cheng’s case,” the statement reads.

She continued, “Our thoughts are with Ms Cheng and her loved ones today, especially her two children.” In Melbourne, Australia, the kids reside with their relatives.

Friday, when questioned about Cheng’s case, the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mao Ning provided no fresh details.

China’s stance on the matter is unambiguous and consistent. At a daily briefing in Beijing, Mao stated that China’s judicial departments had thoroughly investigated the case in accordance with the law, protecting the person involved’s legitimate rights and interests.

Since Wong’s centre-left Labor Party won the elections last year, the tense relations between China and Australia have improved. This coincides with the anniversary.

Cheng, a 47-year-old journalist for CGTN, China Central Television’s English-language channel, was born in China. In August 2019, China detained and charged her with disclosing state secrets.

Wong also commemorated the anniversary of Yang Hengjun’s detention by China in January. Yang Hengjun, an Australian-Chinese writer and blogger, was detained after travelling from New York to Guangzhou in southern China in 2019 with his wife and stepdaughter, 14, at his side.

The Australian government was “deeply troubled,” she continued, by China’s inaction on the espionage allegations. Yang, 57, is still awaiting a decision after a closed trial on an espionage charge was held in Beijing in May 2021.

Wong was the first Australian foreign minister to visit China in four years in December, and she brought up the cases of Yang and Cheng with her Chinese colleague, Wang Yi.

After participating in the first official bilateral meeting between a senior Australian government official and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also brought up their issues.

As a sign of warming relations after Australia’s former conservative administration was overthrown after nine years in office, China has started accepting shipments of Australian coal in recent weeks since 2020.

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