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Australian journalist Cheng Lei returns home after being released from custody in China.

Australian Journalist Cheng Lei Released After Three Years of Detention in China

Australian journalist Cheng Lei has finally returned home after more than three years of detention in China on national security charges. Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Cheng’s release, stating that she arrived in Melbourne and has been reunited with her family. The Australian government has been actively seeking her release, and her return is expected to be warmly welcomed by all Australians.

Cheng Lei’s Release and Legal Processes

Cheng Lei, a former business television anchor for Chinese state television, was detained in August 2020 on allegations of sharing state secrets with another country. After being tried in secret in March 2022, she has now been released following the completion of legal processes in China. The judiciary in China has not provided any immediate comment on her release.

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Australian Government’s Efforts and Cheng Lei’s Resilience

The Australian government had consistently raised concerns about Cheng’s detention, especially amidst a diplomatic dispute that led to China imposing restrictions on Australian exports. Prime Minister Albanese described Cheng as a “very strong and resilient person” and expressed his gratitude for her safe return. Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong personally welcomed Cheng at the airport.

Cheng Lei’s Emotional Letter and Public Pressure

In a heartfelt letter to Australia that was publicly released in August, Cheng expressed her longing for her two children, who had been living in Melbourne with their grandmother while she was detained. She described the challenges she faced in detention, including limited access to sunlight and the absence of nature. The public pressure to secure Cheng’s release before any official visit to China had been mounting, but her release marks a significant breakthrough in bilateral ties.

Analysts’ Perspectives and Efforts to Stabilize Relations

While Cheng’s release is seen as a positive step in stabilizing relations between Australia and China, analysts emphasize the need for further efforts from both sides. Ryan Neelam, the director of the Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program at the Lowy Institute think tank, believes that although progress has been made, the overall challenges in the relationship still remain. Prime Minister Albanese reiterated Australia’s advocacy for the release of another detained Australian journalist, Yang Hengjun, who has been held since January 2019.

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Looking Ahead: Dialogue and New Normal

Prime Minister Albanese expressed his intention to visit China this year and emphasized the importance of dialogue with China, stating that it is a positive step forward. As Australia and China move forward, both countries need to find a new normal in their bilateral relations. While Cheng’s release has been celebrated, it is just one part of the broader efforts needed to strengthen ties between the two nations.

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