China arrests Australian TV anchor for 'national security'

The Chinese government said on Tuesday that a high-profile Australian TV anchor working for Chinese state media had been arrested’ on "national security" grounds.

China arrests Australian TV anchor for 'national security'

Authorities arrested Cheng Lei, a business journalist for the English-language CGTN channel, August 14.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Xiao Lijian said authorities suspected Lei of criminal activity endangering China's national security.

He said that necessary steps have been taken’ and investigation is underway by the concerned authority.

"This case is being handled in accordance with the law and is a guarantee of Chiang's legitimate rights and interests."

This is the first time the Chinese government has commented’ on Cheng's detention, which has strained relations with Australia.

Read more: Journalists at risk: 10 most important September issues

Australian journalists flee China

Australian journalists fled China on Monday night after taking refuge in Australian diplomatic missions across the country.

Bill Birtles, who works for public broadcaster ABC, and Michael Smith, an Australian financial reviewer, said he feared arrest by Chinese authorities.

The diplomatic staff eventually broke an agreement stating that they could leave the country if they agreed to be interviewed’ by the police.

Both said they were questioned’ by security officials about Cheng's case in the presence of the Australian ambassador to China.

Strained relationship

China has repeatedly accused Australia of interfering in its internal affairs with its criticism of the country's human rights record and Beijing's crackdown on foreign media outlets.

Relations between the two countries soured in April when Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus.

A month later, Beijing introduced several new tariffs on a number of Australian products.

China is Australia's top trading partner. According to Australian government figures, trade between the two countries was worth 170 170 billion (143 billion euros) last year.


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