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Australian-Chinese journalist returns to Australia after 3 years in China

A Chinese-Australian journalist, who had been imprisoned in China for three years on espionage charges, has returned to Australia, as announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Cheng Lei, 48, who worked for China’s state broadcaster CCTV, has reunited with her children in Melbourne.

Cheng’s return aligns with Prime Minister Albanese’s upcoming visit to Beijing this year, with the date yet to be confirmed. The Australian government, under Albanese’s leadership, has actively lobbied for the release of Cheng and another detained Chinese-Australian, Yang Hengjun, who has been held in China since 2019.

Bilateral relations between Australia and China have seen improvement since the election of the center-left Labor Party after nine years of conservative rule. This shift has resulted in China lifting various trade barriers on Australian exports, both official and unofficial.

Cheng was recently sentenced after a closed-court trial last year on national security charges, and her return marks the end of a challenging period for her and her family.

Prime Minister Albanese shared that he had spoken to Cheng in Melbourne, where her children had been living with her mother. He discussed a letter Cheng had penned to the Australian public in August, marking the third anniversary of her detention, in which she expressed her love for her adopted country and detailed her harsh living conditions in Chinese detention.

While Cheng has been released, it remains uncertain whether Yang Hengjun will also be released. Yang, a 58-year-old writer and democracy blogger, had voiced concerns about his health and treatment in detention and is still awaiting a verdict after facing a closed-door espionage trial in Beijing.

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