China concerned about Australia’s security measures as journalist Cheng Lei marks one year since trial – ABC News

China concerned about Australia's security measures as journalist Cheng Lei marks one year since trial - ABC News

China is highly concerned about Australia’s tightened security review of Chinese firms’ investment and operation in the country, the Chinese commerce ministry has said. 

“National security should not be abused,” vice-commerce minister Wang Shouwen was quoted as saying to Australia’s Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres on the sidelines of Boao Forum.

“China hopes Australia will properly handle relevant cases and enhance confidence of Chinese enterprises to carry out cooperation with Australia.”

Mr Wang also expressed concern about Australia’s anti-dumping and countervailing measures against Chinese goods.

The Commerce Ministry statement said China was willing to work with Australia though bilateral or multilateral channels to find constructive solutions. 

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia remains an “attractive and reliable investment destination” and welcomes “high-quality foreign investment that aligns with our national interest, including from China”.

“Our investment screening framework is risk-based and applies to all countries. Many countries, including China, have a similar screening regime,” it said in a statement to the ABC.

A woman in Shanghai wears a black dress and pink jacket.
Cheng Lei has been detained since 2020 and has two young children in Australia.(Supplied)

Meanwhile, the government said it has “deep concerns” about delays in the case of Australian journalist Cheng Lei who faced a closed-door trial in Beijing on national security charges a year ago.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement on Friday that Ms Cheng was still waiting to learn the outcome of the trial 12 months later.

“We share the deep concerns of Ms Cheng’s family and friends about the ongoing delays in her case,” Senator Wong said.

Ms Cheng, who has been detained in Beijing since her arrest in 2020, has two young children living in Australia.

Her partner, Nick Coyle, this week urged Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to raise her case during his visit to China for the sake of her Victorian children, after Mr Andrews said he would not be mentioning the journalist’s plight. 

Senator Wong said the Australian government has advocated for Ms Cheng to be reunited with her family.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong addresses the media.
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says Australia remains concerned about Cheng Lei’s ongoing detention.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Ms Cheng was a business television anchor for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN before being arrested and accused of providing state secrets to a foreign country.

She was born in China and moved with her parents to Australia as a child. Later she returned to China to build a television career first with CNBC, starting in 2003, and in 2012 she joined CGTN.

China’s foreign ministry has previously told Australia to respect China’s judicial sovereignty. 

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Friday that Ms Cheng’s legitimate rights are fully protected.

“China’s judicial organs hear cases in accordance with the law,” she said. 

WTO verdict expected soon 

The Chinese Commerce Ministry comments come as a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling on Australia’s complaint about Chinese barley tariffs is due.

A final WTO report on the barley dispute is due to be delivered to China and Australia on Friday, according to the WTO website, which also shows an interim report would have been delivered to the two nations weeks earlier.

Under the WTO dispute process, the findings on whether trade rules have been broken and any remedy will be distributed to all WTO members within three weeks of the final report, and its recommendation adopted within 60 days unless there is an appeal.

The likely public release of the WTO ruling within weeks comes as dialogue between the two nations steps up and Australia presses China to lift a series of trade blockages.

Mr Ayres said on Friday that Australia was “confident that the applications that we’ve made would be successful in the normal course of events” but was also discussing the WTO case with China.

“If there’s progress and it’s in the national interest, well, we are absolutely prepared to deal with these issues by agreement. If there can’t be agreement, then that’s what the WTO appeal process is for,” he told ABC radio.

Trade Minister Don Farrell held a video meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao in February, which was followed by a video meeting of trade officials. 

“Minister Wang and I agreed to enhanced dialogue at all levels, including between government officials, to pave the way for the resumption of trade,” Mr Farrell said in a statement.

“Our government officials are meeting to continue to lay the groundwork for the resumption of trade.”

China’s embassy in Canberra did not respond to a request for comment.

Australia lodged the complaint with the WTO in December 2020, after China imposed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties totalling 80.5 per cent on its barley exports in May.

Australian wine, beef, coal, seafood and timber exports to China were also hit by what Australia’s government calls “trade impediments”, amid a diplomatic dispute over Australia’s call for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, which angered Beijing.



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