China has released a Chinese-Australian journalist who was detained after three years on charges of leaking state secrets. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Wednesday that 48-year-old Cheng Lei (Cheng Lei in English) arrived in Melbourne, where she was reunited with her two children.
The journalist’s dismissal comes as Beijing and Canberra attempt to improve relations; Albanese is set to visit China this year as the first prime minister since 2016.
“The matter has been closed through legal proceedings,” Albanese said in a statement. “Her return will be warmly welcomed not only by her family and friends, but by the whole of Australia,” he said.
Cheng Lei, who was born in China and lived in Australia since childhood, worked as a presenter for China’s major state-owned television station CGTN and was detained by Chinese authorities in August 2020.
She was later arrested on suspicion of endangering national security and stood trial last year.
The Cheng Lei case has soured relations between Australia and China, which have been severely marred by several disputes in recent years. These were related to the covid-19 pandemic, the exclusion of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from establishing a 5G network in Australia or the introduction of Chinese tariffs on the import of Australian goods.
But the improvement in relations was indicated last month by Albanese’s meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, as well as the planned trip of the Australian Prime Minister to China. Its date has not yet been announced.