Australian Journalist Accused of Breaking Media Embargo Released After Three Years in China Detention


Summary: Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist, has recently been released after spending three years in detention in China. She was accused of sharing a confidential government document shortly before it was due to be made public. Cheng Lei confirmed that she breached a media embargo by sharing a government briefing, albeit by only a few minutes. She is readjusting to life in Australia but still has lingering fears of being arrested.

Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist who worked at the Chinese state-owned network CGTN, has spoken publicly for the first time since landing back in Australia after spending three years in detention in China. In August 2020, she was accused of ‘supplying state secrets overseas,’ a charge she denied. She revealed in an interview with Sky News that she shared a confidential government briefing, which had been provided to the media under embargo. Although the embargo was broken by only ‘a few minutes,’ it led to serious consequences. During her detention, Cheng Lei experienced isolation and confinement, spending six months in isolation and facing strict conditions. She described being arrested at work and taken to her apartment, where evidence was searched for the entire day. Throughout her detention, the lights were always on, and she had limited access to fresh air and exercise. It was a mentally and physically challenging experience. Despite her release and return to Australia, Cheng Lei is still struggling to readjust to a normal life. She expressed fears that she may be arrested again and has concerns for her children’s safety and her personal belongings. Cheng Lei plans to focus on parenting, writing, cooking, and traveling in the future.

Tags: Cheng Lei, Australian journalist, China detention, media embargo, confidential government document, detention conditions, readjusting to life in Australia