Canberra [Australia], August 31 (ANI): In what could further strain relations between Beijing and Canberra, an Australian television anchor working with CGTN, China’s state-run news channel has been detained in Beijing in a highly sensitive case.

A statement from Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed Cheng Lei was being held by authorities in the Chinese capital and Australian diplomats were permitted to speak to her last week via video conference, reported ABC. “The Australian Government has been informed that an Australian citizen, Ms Cheng Lei, has been detained in China,” Payne was quoted as saying in a statement.

The statement informed that formal notification was received on 14th of August from Chinese authorities of her detention. “Australian officials had an initial consular visit with Ms Cheng at a detention facility via video link on 27th of August and will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family,” the statement read.

Also read: Former President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84: Prez Kovind, PM Modi share condolences

Also read: Didn’t intend to disrespect SC: Prashant Bhushan responds to contempt case judgement

Relations between China and Australia have strained in recent times over several issues.

As per the report, friends became concerned when Cheng did not reply to messages in recent weeks, fuelling speculation among her Chinese state media colleagues.

She has not been charged but is being held under what is called “residential surveillance at a designated location”, a form of detention in which investigators can imprison and question a suspect for up to six months while cutting them off from lawyers and the outside world.
Her family in a statement said they are in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade and doing everything to support her.

“Cheng has worked as an on-air anchor and reporter for CGTN for the past eight years. She was trusted to present coverage of some of the nation’s most politically sensitive events, including China’s annual political congress,” the report said.

She is the second Australian, after writer and former Chinese Government employee Yang Hengjun, to be detained in Beijing. Yang, who is under an espionage investigation was taken by authorities in January 2019.

The report stated that in July this year, the Australian Government updated its information for Australians travelling to China, warning they could be at increased risk of arbitrary detention. (ANI)

Also read: Big relief for Prashant Bhushan, SC lets off Bhushan with a token fine of Re 1