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Australian journalist Cheng Lei to be tried in Beijing next week

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By Reuters

SYDNEY -An Australian journalist will face court in Beijing next Thursday on state secrets charges, after being detained for more than 19 months, sources close to the case said.

Cheng Lei, who worked as a television anchor for Chinese state media for a decade before being detained in 2020, was formally arrested a year ago on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.

She will be tried in the Beijing No.2 People’s Intermediate Court at 9 a.m. next Thursday, Reuters confirmed with sources who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Australia has previously said it was concerned by what it said was a “lack of transparency” over the case, and Cheng’s family have said they are convinced she is innocent.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has said previously Cheng’s rights were being fully guaranteed.

She has been separated from her children, aged nine and 11, who were visiting their grandmother in Australia when she was detained.

Cheng was born in China but moved with her parents to Australia as a child.

She built a television career in China, first with CNBC and later as a television anchor for China’s English-language channel CGTN, and is a high-profile member of the Australian community in Beijing.

Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have worsened in recent years, after Canberra called for an international investigation into the source of the pandemic in 2020 and Beijing responded with trade reprisals.

Australia’s foreign affairs department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.