Ambassador blocked from Australian journalist’s trial in China

Canberra’s ambassador to China was denied access to the trial of Australian journalist Cheng Lei in Beijing on Thursday, according to media reports.

Ambassador Graham Fletcher told journalists outside Beijing’s No two Intermediate People’s Courthouse that Chinese officials blocked him from accessing Cheng’s trial.

“We have no confidence in the validity of a process which is conducted in secret,’’ Fletcher was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

“We have no information about the charges or allegations against Ms Cheng.

“That is part of the reason why we are so concerned we have no basis on which to understand why she has been detained,’’ he added.

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Cheng, a Chinese-born Australian news anchor, was formally arrested over a year ago on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas after six months of detention.

Canberra had been notified that Cheng’s trial would start on Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said last week.

“The Australian Government has regularly raised serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s welfare and conditions of detention,’’ Paine said in a statement at the time.

He added that the Canberra government expected “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met.’’

Payne also said Canberra had requested that Australian officials be allowed to attend Cheng’s hearing in line with China’s obligations under the Australia-China bilateral consular agreement.

Cheng, a news anchor for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, was initially detained in August 2020 on suspicion of endangering national security.

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