Family renews call for release of Australian journalist imprisoned in China for over 1000 days

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Calls renewed once again for the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei who is in detention in China for over 1000 days after she was taken into custody on espionage charges.

The court has not yet handed down a verdict.

Analysts raised concerns as the journalist has been allegedly accused of illegally supplying state secrets overseas, a charge that carries a possible sentence of between five years to life in prison, CNN reported.Friends and family of Cheng Lei renewed calls for her release from detention in China, 1,000 days after she was taken into custody on espionage charges - a move that has cast a black mark on the relations between the two countries which are already under strain.

Australian authorities have expressed concern about her detention amid suggestions from analysts that strained ties between Canberra and Beijing may have provided an impetus for the opaque case against her.Cheng's prolonged detention is a "critical issue" holding back further reconciliation, CNN quoted Nick Coyle, Cheng's partner as saying.

"The ongoing delay, the ongoing situation, causes enormous damage not only to Lei and her two children, but I think it's also causing a lot of damage in terms of the efforts by both China and Australia to repair the bilateral relationship," said Coyle.

He added that people in Australia and around the world view her detention with "a lot of negative sentiment," and that "it would be in everyone's best interest for it to be resolved as quickly as possible."

Cheng had been on her way to work on the morning of August 13, 2020, when she "was taken by China's Ministry of State Security," CNN quoted Coyle as saying in a separate letter published in The Australian newspaper."Now 1,000 days later, we still don't know why she was taken, why she was charged with deliberately vague national security breaches or when she might be with us again," he wrote.

"The most difficult issue for her to deal with is the long time that she's been away from her children," said Coyle. "Physically she's going okay, and mentally she's very tough, very strong, very resilient,"CNN reported.Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong also released a statement on Twitter: "Despite being separated from her family for so long, she has shown great resilience and courage. All Australians want to see her reunited with her children."

Wong added that the ministry shared the concerns of Cheng's friends and family about "the ongoing delays in her case," and that it would continue advocating for Cheng "at every opportunity with the Chinese government."Earlier, Australia's ambassador to China was denied entry to the start of Cheng's trial in Beijing, a move he called "deeply concerning." The court has not yet handed down a verdict, delaying the announcement multiple times - leaving Cheng stuck in custody, and her loved ones without clarity on her fate.


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