Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who has been detained for three years in China, said she missed her children and the sun in a rare message released Thursday, delivered during a consular visit.
“Above all, I miss my children,” she said in this message shared by Australian media and by her friend Nick Coyle on X (ex-Twitter), just before the third anniversary of her imprisonment.
And “I miss the sun” also in detention, she says.
“The sun shines through my cell window, but I can only stand in the sun for 10 hours a year,” she says, also listing other difficult aspects of her detention: not a tree seen in three years, airy bedding only once a year…
“But the Chinese in me has probably crossed the legal boundaries of sentimentality,” quipped Ms Cheng, who describes herself as Australian-Chinese.
Cheng Lei, who worked for the Chinese English-language public channel CGTN, was detained in August 2020. This mother of two children, aged 9 and 11 at the time of her arrest, is being prosecuted for “disclosure of secrets of Overseas State” by Beijing, which did not give further details.
“She missed her daughter’s first return to college. His parents are not getting any younger and Lei is their only child. So time becomes more and more precious,” Nick Coyle told the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday.
Last year, Ms Cheng’s partner said he was seriously concerned about a “series of health problems” she was suffering from in prison.
“Reunited with her children”
She was tried behind closed doors in March, without the Australian ambassador being able to attend the hearing. The judgment – which could go up to a life sentence – has been reserved.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she questioned her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit about Cheng Lei and another Australian national, the writer Yang Hengjun, also imprisoned in China under obscure circumstances.
“Australia has always stood up for Ms Cheng and demanded that fundamental standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment be upheld in accordance with international standards,” Penny Wong said in a statement on Friday.
“We will continue to support Ms. Cheng and her family and defend Ms. Cheng’s interests and well-being,” she stressed.
The whole country wants to see Ms. Cheng “reunited with her children,” she added.
China’s Foreign Ministry argued on Friday that the case was being handled “in strict accordance with the law” and Ms Cheng’s rights were fully protected.
“We hope the Australian side will respect China’s judicial sovereignty and refrain from any type of interference in the legal handling of the case by Chinese judicial bodies,” a spokesperson told AFP in a statement. a written statement.
Relations between Australia and China, its largest trading partner, have recently eased after several years at loggerheads.
China notably announced last week the end of prohibitive tariffs on Australian barley, imposed in 2020.