Leading Australians urge release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei
A group of leading Australians including a former prime minister, Labor and Liberal parliamentarians, former Labor and Liberal foreign ministers, prominent business leaders, a former top trade unionist, academics, journalists, think-tank directors, and a former captain of Australia’s soccer team, have signed an open letter urging China to release Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who has been detained since August 2020.
They express concern that she has not been granted the rights to which she is entitled under bilateral agreements and the law, and that she has not been permitted even telephone contact with her family and beloved children.
They conclude: “Please release Ms Cheng Lei and allow her to return to her family” in Australia.
The letter and signatories are below.
Open Letter for Release of Cheng Lei
As fellow Australians, we write out of deep concern for the rights, health, and well-being of Australian journalist Ms Cheng Lei to urge the Government of the People’s Republic of China to authorise the relevant legal authority to release her from detention and allow her to return to her home and family in Australia.
Ms Cheng Lei is widely acknowledged as a caring, professional, and respected journalist. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade acknowledged her contributions as a business journalist by bestowing on her the award of Global Alumni Ambassador for Australia. In addition to our concern for her individual rights and welfare, we believe that the detention of an outstanding Global Alumni Ambassador for Australia has a chilling effect on relations between our two countries.
Ms Cheng Lei has been detained since August 2020 on suspicion of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas.” We are concerned that she has not been granted the rights to which she is entitled under bilateral agreements and the law, including the Sino-Australian Consular Agreement and China’s own Criminal Law.
When she was tried behind closed doors in March 2022, the Australian Ambassador was denied access to the hearing in contravention of the consular agreement. Since that time, no judgment or sentence has been declared, and she has not been permitted even telephone contact with her family and beloved children.
We petition for immediate resolution of the legal issues and other concerns that place Ms Cheng Lei’s health and well-being in peril and the welfare of her family in jeopardy. Please release Ms Cheng Lei and allow her to return to her family.
Signatories (in alphabetical order):
Justin Bassi – Executive Director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Rowan Callick OBE – industry fellow of Griffith University Asia Institute and writer
Michael Danby – former Labor Federal MP, former Chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Alexander Downer AC – former Liberal Foreign Minister
Georgina Downer – Chief Executive Officer, Robert Menzies Institute
Nick Dyrenfurth – Executive Director, John Curtin Research Centre
Michael Easson – former union leader and businessman
Gareth Evans AC QC – former Labor Foreign Minister
John Fitzgerald AM – former President, Australian Academy of the Humanities
Craig Foster AM – 40th Captain, Australian National Football Team (Socceroos) and Professor, Sport & Social Responsibility
Jennie George AO – former Labor MP
Stan Grant – Wiradjuri man, author and journalist
Jennifer Hewett – journalist
John Howard OM AC – former Liberal Prime Minister
Patricia Karvelas - broadcaster
Paul Kelly – author and journalist
Peter Khalil – Federal Labor MP for Wills
Rory Medcalf AM - Head of the National Security College, Australian National University
James Paterson – Liberal Party Senator for Victoria
Trevor C Rowe AO - former Executive Chairman and Senior Advisor Rothschild & Co
Warwick Smith AO – Chairman, Global Engagement Committee of Business Council of Australia, former Liberal Government Minister
Bec Strating – Director, La Trobe Asia
Sue Trevaskes – Chinese Studies expert, Griffith University
Chris Uhlmann – author and broadcaster
N.B. for further comment, please contact: