On Monday, the Chinese government revealed that Cheng Li, an Australian TV anchor of Chinese descent, has been arrested 6 months ago.
Australian officials announced that they have received confirmation from China that Li has been detained since August 13th last year, even though she was formally arrested on February 5th.
Marise Payne, Australian Foreign Minister, told reporters that, in her communication with senior Chinese officials, the Australian government has regularly expressed their worries about the circumstances in which Li is being detained.
She said that Australian diplomats have visited Li six times since she was arrested, with the last visit occurred on January 27th this year.
Arrested for alleged espionage
Li was put in prison under suspicion of espionage. Before her detainment, Li has been working for the Chinese state media outlet CGTN since 2012, when she ended her contract to join the U.S. news station CNBC.
Li was the host of the ‘’Global Business’’ show in which she interviewed dozens of people from business and other areas of life.
In her free time, Cheng Li was reportedly an active member of the Australian community in Beijing.
She engaged in events organized by the Australian embassy and the Australian Chamber of Commerce.
The last time she posted on social media was on August 12th, when she took a photo of herself at the opening of the first restaurant brought to China by the U.S chain restaurants.
The post was published on the Chinese platform WeChat. Following Li’s detainment, CGTN erased all the information about her from their website.
China imposed sanctions on Australia
Li’s capture came amid the increasing tensions between China and Australia, which started a year ago when Australia initiated an international inquiry about the origins of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
In addition to criticisms regarding China’s role in the global spread of the virus, Australian officials were very unforgiving about the soaring Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a result, the Chinese government imposed sanctions on Australian products, more particularly barley, beef, wine, and coal.
Li is not the first Australian citizen to be arrested by the Chinese institutions.
Writer Yang Hengjun was arrested in 2019 under similar suspicions of espionage.
Moreover, following Li’s arrest, Bill Birtles and Mike Smith, the correspondents of Australian broadcasting networks in China, were warned that they might be arrested as ‘persons of interest’.
After several-day diplomatic negotiations, these reporters managed to successfully arrive in Australia.
It remains to be seen what would be the outcome of Li’s situation. Regardless of that, her family members stay confident that she has not done anything to intentionally damage the national security of China.