Jailed Australian journalist Cheng Lei yearns for her children and the country’s “psychedelic sunsets”, she said in a rare public letter marking three years since her mysterious arrest in China.
Cheng describes her bleak prison conditions in a candid note dictated to Australian officials from her cell, casting new light on a long-running point of friction between Canberra and Beijing.
“I miss the sun,” reads the message, described as a “love letter” to Australia.
“In my cell, the sunlight shines through the window but I can stand in it for only 10 hours a year.”
The former anchor for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN was arrested in 2020, and has been formally charged with “supplying state secrets overseas” — though no further details have been supplied.
Her message was shared with Australian news outlets and on the social media platform X by Cheng’s partner, Nick Coyle, on Thursday evening.
Cheng was detained at a time of rising tensions between China and Australia, with some questioning whether political manoeuvring played a part in her arrest.
Her case is often compared with that of Chinese-born Australian writer Yang Jun, who has been detained in China since 2019 on vaguely defined espionage charges.
Although the relationship between Canberra and Beijing has warmed in recent months — with China dismantling a series of hefty trade tariffs — Cheng’s imprisonment remains a point of stress in the relationship.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the entire country wanted to see Cheng “reunited with her children”.
“Australia has consistently advocated for Ms Cheng, and asked that basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met in accordance with international norms,” she said Friday in a statement.
“We will continue to support Ms Cheng and her family and to advocate for Ms Cheng’s interests and wellbeing.”
Last year, Coyle said he had serious concerns about a “range of health issues” Cheng faced behind bars.
‘Miss my children’
In the poignant message, the mother of two said she had not seen a tree in three years and spoke of her longing for Australia’s bushwalks, beaches and “psychedelic sunsets”.
She said her bedding in jail was only taken out to air once a year.
“It is the Chinese in me that has probably gone beyond the legal limits of sentimentality,” writes Cheng, who describes herself as Chinese-Australian.
“Most of all I miss my children,” she ends the letter.
Cheng has been detained since August 2020, but was only formally arrested in February 2021.
She was tried last March behind closed doors, with even Australia’s ambassador to China blocked from entering the court to observe proceedings.
The court deferred the verdict and Cheng’s sentence, which could extend to life in prison.
“She has missed her daughter going to high school. Her parents aren’t getting any younger and Lei is their only child. So time is getting more and more precious,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Coyle as saying on Thursday.
Wong raised Cheng’s case when she met China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit in Jakarta last month.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by String Reveals staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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