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A female Australian journalist detained by Chinese authorities is reportedly being held on national security grounds, authorities in Beijing have said.

Cheng Lei, the presenter for China Global Television Network (CGTN), has been held since mid-August, and is, according to media reports coming out of Europe now suspected of “criminal activity endangering China’s national security”.

Ms. Lei essentially vanished on August 14th before she was later announced to be being held in a state of “residential surveillance” in an unknown location according to her family.

It is understood the Chinese authorities are now conducting an investigation although no details on what is being investigated have been released.

Ms. Lei was born in China in the mid-70s, but moved to Australia as a child.

The announcement came not long after two other Australian journalists, Bill Birtles and Mike Smith were questioned by authorities in China and departed the country earlier in the week.

They both landed back in Sydney on Tuesday.

Bill Birtles of The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) indicated that he had been asked about Cheng Lei.

No such comment was made by the Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) Mike Smith, however.

The latest unofficial expulsions and detentions come on the back of months of deteriorating relations between China and Australia, primarily affecting trade, and in the past few hours tensions have increased further with Chinese state media claiming that Australian intelligence authorities have now raided an undisclosed number of homes occupied by Chinese journalists based in Australia.

The ‘raids’ supposedly took place on June 26th, and according to China’s state run news agency Xinhua, the Chinese journalists were told not to publicize the event.

A more controversial outlet backed by the state, The Global Times, said the journalists were questioned by Australian intelligence officials and had computers and smartphones seized. Neither agency quoted any sources.
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