China says Australian journalist suspected of endangering security

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BEIJING (Reuters) - An Australian journalist for Chinese state television who was detained last month is suspected of carrying out illegal activities that endanger the country’s security, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry told a media briefing on Tuesday.

Cheng, a high-profile business anchor on CGTN, an English-language channel, was detained three weeks ago, and videos of her had been removed from Chinese websites.

“The Australian national Cheng Lei is suspected of carrying out criminal activities endangering China’s national security, and compulsory measures have been taken and an investigation is underway by the relevant authority,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

His comments were Beijing’s first explaining Cheng’s detention.

“Now this case is being handled according to law and Cheng’s legitimate rights and interests are fully guaranteed,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, two Australian correspondents returned to their country after being rushed out of China for their safety after they had been banned from leaving the country until they answered questions about Cheng.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Christian Schmollinger