Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, 10 July 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE

Australian journalist Cheng Lei home after 3 years in Chinese jail

Sydney, Australia, Oct 11 (EFE).- Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been released from a Chinese jail and is back in Australia three years after she was detained and accused of “supplying state secrets overseas,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Wednesday.

A Chinese paramilitary police officer stands guard in front of the Australian Embassy in Beijing, China, 02 September 2020. EFE-EPA FILE/ROMAN PILIPEY

“We are pleased to confirm that Australian citizen Ms Cheng Lei has arrived safely home in Australia and has been reunited with her family,” Albanese said in a statement.

Cheng, 48, a former host of a television program on the Chinese state channel CGTV, was arrested on Aug. 13, 2020. She rejected the allegations of “supplying state secrets overseas” and was tried behind closed doors last year with her sentence not publicly released.

On Wednesday at a press conference, Albanese said that Cheng’s return to Melbourne “brings an end to a very difficult few years for her family” – her partner Nick Coyle and her two children.

“She’s a very strong and resilient person, though. And when I spoke with her, she was delighted to be back in Melbourne,” said the Australian leader.

Albanese would only say that Cheng’s “release follows the completion of legal processes in China,” while state broadcaster ABC reported that the prime minister said he had known about her release “some time ago.”

Beijing confirmed later Wednesday that Cheng had been deported, “in accordance with the law after serving her sentence.”

In May 2020, Cheng illegally provided state secrets to an overseas agency and was sentenced to two years and 11 months in

prison, plus deportation, China’s Ministry of State Security claimed in a statement.Cheng’s return home also comes on the eve of Albanese’s trip to China to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first visit by an Australian leader (Gough Whitlam) to the Asian country.

However, Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who was detained in 2019 in China and tried in May 2021 behind closed doors for espionage, is still being held with his sentence also unknown.

The tense relationship between Australia and China is experiencing lukewarm rapprochement after the recent meetings of government representatives, the first after several years of stagnation as a result of various diplomatic spats between the two countries that, however, maintain extensive bilateral trade. EFE