Australian Ambassador Denied Entry to China’s Secret Trial of Journalist Cheng Lei

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Writer
Caden Pearson is a journalist based in Australia. He has a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
March 31, 2022 Updated: March 31, 2022

Court officials in Beijing have denied Australia’s ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, entry to the closed-door trial of Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei on March 31.

A court official at the No. 2 People’s Intermediate Court in Beijing reportedly told Fletcher that he couldn’t enter because the court case involved “state secrets.”

“This is deeply concerning, unsatisfactory and regrettable,” Fletcher told Bloomberg reporters after being turned away from the court.

“We can have no confidence in the validity of a process which is conducted in secret. Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate strongly for Ms. Cheng Lei’s rights and interests.”

Australian Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher
Australian Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher (L) is not allowed entry by court officials and police as he tries to enter the trial of Chinese Australian journalist Cheng Lei at the Beijing Number 2 Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing on March 31, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Bloomberg and The Guardian reported that plain-clothed police roped off areas outside the No. 2 People’s Intermediate Court in Beijing and were checking journalists’ credentials before moving them away.

Cheng worked as a news anchor for CGTN, the international arm of the Chinese regime’s state broadcaster, CCTV, before she was detained in Beijing in August 2020 amid testy relations between Canberra and Beijing.

She was formally arrested six months later on Feb. 5, 2021, on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.

Epoch Times Photo
Australian journalist Cheng Lei is seen on a television set in Beijing in this still image taken from undated video footage. (Australia Global Alumni-Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Handout via Reuters)

After graduating from the University of Queensland, Cheng returned to China to become a business analyst for a Sino–Australian joint venture in 2001. She started her journalism career at China’s state broadcaster CCTV a year later, according to her CGTN profile page. The profile has since been removed from the website, along with videos featuring Cheng’s previous reports.

After working as a CNBC China correspondent for nine years, she started working at CGTN’s office in Beijing in 2012.

Since July 2020, Australia has warned its citizens that they run the risk of “arbitrary detention” if they travel to mainland China, noting that Chinese authorities have detained foreigners on vague charges of “endangering national security.”

Australian officials have visited Cheng a number of times since her detention in accordance with bilateral consular agreements with China, but have previously decried the “lack of transparency” surrounding her case.

Cheng was the second Chinese Australian to be detained by Chinese authorities since 2019. Her detention came months after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

After this, Beijing began to impose trade tariffs and restrictions on Australian exports in retaliation as a form of economic coercion to bend Canberra’s knee.

Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a journalist based in Australia. He has a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au