Journalist Formerly Detained In China Barred From Australian Media Event During CCP Premier's Visit

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Jun 21, 2024 - 03:00 AM

Authored by Rex Widerstrom via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Staff from the Australian prime minister’s office barred Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei from reporting on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s meeting with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Premier Li Qiang.

Australian journalist Cheng Lei observes a signing ceremony by China's Premier Li Qiang and Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on June 17, 2024. (Lukas Coch/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The revelations come after Chinese Embassy staff were seen trying to block Ms. Cheng from being filmed by local media at an earlier press event at Parliament, which was attended by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and CCP Premier Li Qiang.

Ms. Cheng, a former anchor of the Chinese state-run channel CGTN, was detained in China for three years for breaking the embargo on a government press release by a few minutes.

Critics, however, argued that it was an instance of Beijing’s hostage diplomacy during a period of deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra.

The journalist was released and returned to Australia in 2023 and is now working for Sky News Australia.

The latest episodes underscore the underlying tensions during the CCP premier’s recent visit, with the freed journalist saying Beijing viewed her as a “symbol of some sort” and that they “didn’t want that for the domestic audience.”

Banned From Entering The Meeting Room

On June 19, Ms. Cheng said she was barred from being present during the opening remarks of Mr. Dutton and Mr. Li at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra, despite being registered for the event.

The journalist told Sky News Australia that when she arrived at the event, one of Prime Minister Albanese’s media staff told her she wasn’t welcome, although her cameraman could enter. Staff from Mr. Dutton’s office witnessed the confrontation but did not get involved.

But I’ve been registered since last week,” Ms. Cheng recalled what she told the staff from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), adding that her bureau chief had put her name on the list.

“Well that’s only an expression of interest, Dutton’s team can decide who gets to come in, you’re not on there,” the DPMC staff replied.

Prior to this, Ms. Cheng said she saw members of the Chinese delegation, including two embassy staffer who previously blocked her from view at Parliament House on the same day, talking to the Australian official.

She then heard the words among themselves in Chinese: “This is our turf, we can veto it.”

An Undelivered Promise

Ms. Cheng said she was “confident” she could get into the high-level meeting because a media staff from Mr. Dutton’s office previously promised to arrange access for her.

But when politicians and government officials started to walk into the meeting room, Ms. Cheng tried to call the media staff’s name loudly several times, but he didn’t turn around.

A PM’s media staffer then tapped her on the shoulder, motioning that she couldn’t go in.

Later, she saw someone slipping into the room when the meeting had already started.

Ms. Cheng then asked the PM’s staff, “How come anyone can go in but me? Who’s checking credentials? So all this is just about keeping me out?”

“She reiterated the line that both sides agreed, I wasn’t on the list,” Ms. Cheng said.

Ms. Cheng expressed her disappointment at the behaviour of the PM’s staff, noting that on the previous occasion at Parliament House, the Australian official was trying to help her participate in the event.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) and CCP Premier Li Qiang leave after their visit to Kaarta Gar-up Lookout in Kings Park in Perth, Australia on June 18, 2024. (Richard Wainwright/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Politicians Back Cheng Lei

While Mr. Albanese was quick to raise his concerns with the Chinese embassy about the events in Parliament earlier that day, he declined to comment on the actions of his staff at the Hyatt. Nor has Mr. Dutton.

“Australian officials intervened, as they should have,” Mr. Albanese said of the first incident.

“There should be no impediments to Australian journalists going about their job, and we’ve made that clear to the Chinese embassy.”

Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham also weighed in, saying freedom of the press was “paramount” and that Ms. Cheng—an Australian citizen and journalist— “should have been treated with respect.”

Mr. Dutton went further and told the Prime Minister to “grow a backbone.”

The clumsy attempts by Beijing officials to sideline a reporter once thought worthy of a leading role on their own state TV network has marred Mr. Li’s visit to Australia.

CCP Premier Li Qiang (L) and New Zealand's Prime Minister Christopher Luxon pose after attending a joint press conference at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand on June 13, 2024. (Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

New Zealand PM’s Response

New Zealand PM Christopher Luxon defended the limitations placed on journalists to question the CCP premier during the visit, citing “different protocols” as justification.

“I think we are really proud of the fact that we are very accessible to the journalists in New Zealand and the media, and that’s important, Mr. Luxon said.

It’s an important part of our democracy. But we also have to respect, as hosts of countries coming into New Zealand, and/or when we’re offshore that there are different protocols. That doesn’t preclude me from making myself available to you to ask me anything you wish.”

It was also reported that CCP officials in New Zealand grabbed and shoved reporters at events attended by Prime Minister Luxon and the premier.

Mr. Luxon said he was unaware of the incidents and urged the reporters to lay a formal complaint so it could be investigated.