Cheng Li, an Australian broadcaster detained in Beijing, accused of ‘endangering China’s national security’

Cheng Li, an Australian broadcaster detained in Beijing, accused of 'endangering China's national security'

China says that an Australian TV presenter detained in Beijing is suspected of carrying out “criminal activities” threatening national security.

Confirmation of the allegations against Cheng Li came on the same day that Australian journalists were transferred out of China after being questioned by the country’s Ministry of State Security.

Ms Cheng, who was working for the Chinese government’s English-language news channel CGTN, was detained in Beijing last month.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Ms Cheng was “suspected of carrying out criminal activities threatening China’s national security.”

He said that “compulsory measures” have been taken and the case is under investigation “by the competent authority.”

“Now this issue is handled according to the law, and the legitimate rights and interests of the Qing are fully guaranteed.”

Last month, Cheng Li was arrested and is being held under “residential surveillance.”(Source: CGTN)

It is a serious accusation, said Associate Professor Feng Chongyi of the University of Technology in Sydney, who was himself detained in China for a week in 2017.

“This” state security threat “is very broad and very vague,” he said.

“This means that they have not decided which direction they want to take and what kind of accusation or accusation they want to take next.”

Ms. Cheng is being held under what is called “residential surveillance in a specific location.”

It is a form of detention whereby interrogators can imprison and question a suspect for up to six months while isolating them from lawyers and the outside world – all before they are officially arrested.

A picture of a man outside a Sydney street
Dr. Chungyi, was arrested by the Chinese authorities under similar circumstances to Ms. Li.(ABC News)

A journalist says that China has become like North Korea

Dr. Feng criticized China’s treatment of ABC reporter Bill Bertels and Australian reporter Mike Smith, who arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning.

“It is simply ridiculous for the Chinese authorities, due to political manipulation, to show that they have power over Australian citizens, journalists or anyone else in China to intimidate the Australian government and the public,” he said.

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Bill Bertels speaks to reporters upon landing in Sydney

After being warned by Australian officials that he should leave China, Bertels was sipping farewell drinks when a group of police officers arrived at his home in the middle of the night.

Smith said he received a similar visit at his home in Shanghai.

“Someone has a huge camera, and there is a spotlight shining in my face and they kind of start reading from a document that kind of specifies the national security laws in China, but they also tell me that I’m a person interested in the case who said at half past seven: ‘They want to talk to me.’”

“They have also informed me, which is most worrying, that I am subject to so-called exit bans and cannot leave China.

“That’s all you can imagine, so scary, so terrifying.”

Smith and Bertels hold their arms around each other's shoulders as they stand in the middle of the terminal at Shanghai Airport.
Michael Smith of the Australian Financial Review (left) and Bill Bertels of ABC at Shanghai airport on Monday.(Supplied)

Bertels took refuge in the Australian embassy in Beijing for several days, but when Smith went to the Shanghai consulate, he was told that he would need to be transported to a safer location.

“Shanghai is not like Beijing, it does not have a large embassy complex,” he said.

“I was taken to another location that is still protected by the Vienna Convention, so technically, the Chinese authorities cannot attend.

“I had to quickly stop by my house on the way and pick up my bags. That was a process in itself.

“And we had two plainclothes following us all the time. So it was all really terrifying.”

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Mike Smith says he felt threatened “a little” before leaving China

The two journalists later interviewed the Chinese authorities before they were allowed to leave the country.

Their withdrawal means that there is no major Australian media outlet now in China, something Smith described as “extremely disappointing”.

“A lot of journalists are leaving China, and a lot of Americans have been expelled from China,” he said.

“I think this is damaging to China, because you have correspondents covering China from abroad, and they are somewhat likely to be critical. They may not understand what is happening there.”

“So, you know, it’s almost like North Korea. I mean, there aren’t a lot of journalists left in China who really understand the place.”

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