Journalist Held by China Sees a Tree for First Time in Years

China's Ministry of State Security said Cheng Lei had served her sentence
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2023 11:20 AM CDT
Journalist Held by China Sees a Tree for First Time in Years
Cheng Lei, a Chinese-born Australian journalist for CGTN, the English-language channel of China Central Television, attends a public event in Beijing on Aug. 12, 2020.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

After being held in China since her August 2020 arrest, journalist Cheng Lei is back home in Australia. The BBC reports she was "tried in secret" in China in March on national security charges, and China's Ministry of State Security on Wednesday said she'd pleaded guilty and was deported after completing her sentence of two years and 11 months. It alleged that Cheng, a business anchor for Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, had been approached by a foreign organization in May 2020 and leaked state secrets she'd learned on the job, breaching the confidentiality clause she'd signed with her employer. Neither the secrets nor the foreign organization were specified, reports the AP.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed Wednesday that China received nothing in exchange for Cheng's release, which "follows the completion of judicial processes in China," he said. The FreeChengLei account on X has a picture of Cheng with this quote: "Tight hugs, teary screams, holding my kids in the spring sunshine. Trees shimmy from the breeze. I can see the entirety of the sky now! Thank you Aussies." She has two children.

In an August letter released to the public, Cheng wrote, "I haven't seen a tree in 3 years ... I miss the sun. In my cell, the sunlight shines through the window but I can stand in it for only 10 hours a year. ... I can't believe I used to avoid the sun when I was living back in Australia ... It will probably rain for the first two weeks after I return." The chance of rain in Melbourne Thursday is 100%. (More journalist stories.)

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