The Chinese government confirmed Tuesday that Australian journalist Cheng Lei, arrested in August, is under investigation for “criminal activities that threaten national security” after two other correspondents left the Asian country in fear of retaliation.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that the case “will be handled in accordance with the law and fully guarantees the legitimate rights and interests of Cheng, who works for the state broadcaster CGTN.”
The revelations about this presenter’s situation came shortly after two other Australian journalists, Bill Birtles and Mike Smith, left China after authorities asked to question them. Both spent five days under consular protection while Australia negotiated their departure.
The State Department spokesman has not commented on the Birtles and Smith case or clarified whether it is related to Cheng Lei, the Bloomberg agency reports. “China always welcomes foreign journalists, including those hired by the Chinese media,” said Zhao.
The Foreign Correspondents Club on Monday condemned Chinese authorities for delaying the renewal of the accreditations of several foreign journalists who work for the US media, in overt retaliation for the measures taken in the North American country against informants of the Asian giant.