China formally arrests anchor as spy: Australia

After six months in Chinese detention, an Australian journalist has been formally arrested in China on spying charges.

That's according to Australian officials on Monday.

Cheng Lei was a high-profile TV anchor working in Beijing at China's state-owned news channel CGTN, but she was detained last August on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said officials had visited Lei six times since then.

"On Friday evening, the Australian government was informed by Chinese authorities through our embassy in Beijing, that Australian citizen Cheng Lei has now been formally arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas. We will stay in close touch with the Chinese authorities, as that progresses and, as I said, provide all possible support."

Lei's arrest comes after a year of worsening relations between China and Australia.

Australia had lobbied for an international investigation into the source of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Afterward, Beijing slapped tariffs on a number of Australian goods, like wine.

Following Lei's detention, two Australian foreign correspondents in China were flown back home.

Their departure left Australian media without any correspondents in China for the first time in decades.