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Australia Says In Contact With TV Journalist Detained in China

FILE - Cheng Lei, a Chinese-born Australian journalist for CGTN, the English-language channel of China Central Television, attends a public event in Beijing, China, Aug. 12, 2020.

The Australian government says it has been in contact with an Australian television journalist who has been detained in China since mid-August.

The Foreign Ministry said Monday it was notified by Chinese officials on August 14 that Cheng Lei had been detained. The ministry said it conducted a virtual consular visit last Thursday with Cheng, who is being held at a detention facility.

The ministry says it does not know why Cheng is under detention. Australian news outlets say she is being held under a form of detention called “residential surveillance at a designated location” which means she could be held for several months.

Cheng anchors a business show on CGTN, the English-language channel of China’s state-owned CCTV, but videos of her work have been removed from the channel's website and social media.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Canberra will continue to seek information on Cheng’s detention, which comes amid an increasingly bitter rift between the two regional neighbors. Beijing has imposed heavy tariffs and restrictions on Australian agricultural imports in apparent retaliation for Australia’s push for an independent probe into the origins of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which was first detected last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.