Bestinau got that-
Australian Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said Canberra had been informed that Cheng would stand trial on Thursday, but it is unclear whether China has approved its request for Australian officials to attend the hearing. Cases related to national security are usually tried behind closed doors in China.
Cheng has been in custody since August 2020 and observers have expressed concern about the secret trial. Payne says Cheng has had regular access to Australian consular officials, who last saw her on March 21.
The lack of transparency on the case and the background to deteriorating relations between China and Australia has raised concerns that the matter could be political.
“Even taking into account circumstances where the case brought against her has some substance, it’s just very hard to believe that the tensions between Australia and China have in no way affected or factored into this case,” said Collinson.
“It is very possible that the number of years of the sentence will be adjusted to send out some political message,” she said. “(The verdict) will only fuel the already acute mistrust that many Australians feel about Beijing.”
The woman in the middle of the case
Before her detention, Cheng worked as a business anchor at CGTN, the international arm of the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Cheng previously worked for the US financial news network CNBC and in her spare time was active in the Australian community in Beijing.
In the months after Cheng was detained, her friends said they were in shock.
In a statement Wednesday, Cheng’s family said: “Her two children and elderly parents miss her greatly and sincerely hope to reunite with her as soon as possible.”
Why Cheng was detained?
Analysts say the tense political climate between China and Australia appears to have played a role in Cheng’s detention and arrest.
China called Morrison’s proposal “political manipulation” and targeted Australia for trade, slashing products with tariffs and blocking acquisitions by Australian companies.
“There is no transparency, the outside world has no idea what the person actually did,” said Yaqiu Wang, China senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, referring to Cheng. “All we know is that this happened in the context of heightened tensions between the two countries — and the fact that the Chinese government has a history of leveraging and misusing those cases for political ends.”
“This all happened in the context of heightened tensions between the West and China,” Wang said. “Any foreign nationals working in China can be leveraged by the Chinese government for political purposes.”
What happens now
In the 19 months since Cheng was detained, relations between Australia and China have not improved.
Australia is taking a more “confrontational stance” when it comes to China, Wang said.
But Australia goes a national elections, and while a change in government probably won’t change China’s policy, it could clear the air, Collinson said.
“That could pave the way for — if not a reset — a softening of this very sharp friction between the two countries.”
It is not clear what a reset of bilateral relations would mean for Cheng, who remains isolated from her support networks and separated from her family.
“She has two young children that she hasn’t seen in years,” Collinson says said. “It’s all well and good to talk at a high level about political tensions and their consequences, but in terms of their spillover, there are some very real consequences and severe penalties that normal people have to pay.”