A Chinese-born Australian journalist for CGTN, the English-language channel of China Central Television, has been detained in China, Australia's government said Monday. Australian officials had a consular visit via video link with Cheng Lei at a detention facility last Thursday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement. They will continue to provide assistance and support to her and her family, Payne said. Australia had been informed by Chinese authorities on Aug. 14 of her detention, but made its first public statement on Monday, the AP reports. Australian authorities have said they do not know why Cheng, who the BBC reports is an Australian citizen, was detained. “Further comment will not be provided owing to the government’s privacy obligations,” Payne said.
Cheng had not been charged, but was being held under what is called “residential surveillance at a designated location," Australian media reported Tuesday. It is a form of detention in which investigators can imprison and question a suspect for up to six months without a formal arrest. Cheng’s two young children are with family members in the Australian city of Melbourne. Australia in July warned its citizens of a risk of arbitrary detention in China, as relations between the free trade partners have soured in recent years. China dismissed the warning as disinformation. Cheng is an anchor for CGTN's BizAsia program. She was born in China and worked in finance in Australia before returning to China and starting a career in journalism with CCTV in Beijing in 2003. She has reported on major Chinese events including Beijing’s 2008 Olympics and Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo. (Read more China stories.)