Report: Australian journalist Cheng Lei living in dire conditions in Chinese jail

Report: Australian journalist Cheng Lei living in dire conditions in Chinese jail

The mother-of-two told officials her eyesight had deteriorated after spending long hours in her cell

Over two years after being held on suspicion of leaking state secrets, horrifying facts about an Australian journalist's ordeal in Beijing's infamous "black cell" have come to light. After a secret trial that started on March 31 this year, Chinese-Australian news presenter and business reporter Cheng Lei was taken into custody by the police in August 2020 and imprisoned on false national security charges.

Disappeared: The Cheng Lei Story, a documentary by The Daily Telegraph, exposed Lei's horrifying prison conditions, which included being escorted blindfolded and tied to monthly press briefings lasting 30 minutes.

Lei claimed that because of the poor footwear, she was compelled to stuff sanitary pads in her shoes, according to consular reports by Australian embassy employees.

She also frequently has heavy wooden planks used to tether her to uncomfortable chairs, and she and three other prisoners are forced to alternate sleeping quarters in a small cell with a single bed and a single toilet.

The mother-of-two told officials her eyesight had deteriorated after spending long hours in her cell and was told it would be a 'hassle' to get her reading glasses.

According to Lei's partner Nick Coyle, she was purportedly held at the Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), a Beijing-area secret police compound, for the first six months.

According to human rights organisations, RSDL has been employed as a component of China's "black jail" system at least since 2013.

It's known that Lei has been incarcerated with other inmates in a tiny cell after leaving RDSL.

Each of the four inmates sleeps in a separate bed in the 3X3 metre cell, which also has a toilet.

Despite being imprisoned, Lei has maintained a good outlook by teaching the English language to her cellmates using mock-up menus, Shakespeare, Desperate Housewives, and lyrics to songs from the 1980s, such as Lady in Red and Every Breath You Take, as reported by the Daily Mail.

'My English as a second language career is flourishing,' Lei told officials.

'I'm teaching my cellmates to sing. I've taught them Every Breath You Take, Lady in Red, Christmas songs and others. Nine all together. I want to teach them more. With my cellmates, I can see how much of a difference I am making to their lives. This is uplifting for me. I'm not wasting time, and I'm not valueless.'

Report: Australian journalist Cheng Lei living in dire conditions in Chinese jail
China relaxes visa ban on Indian students after over two years

Lei is said to have read Peter Carey's book on Ned Kelly on January 26 in honour of Australia Day and sung the national anthem while doing so since it brought to mind "quintessentially Australian values" like "toughness, mateship, and independence."

In heartfelt letters to her partner, whom she affectionately refers to as "my knight in shining flip-flops," Lei said that her love for him gives her strength.

Drawings that The Daily Telegraph got from the reporter's two children, ages 11 and 13, who reside with a grandfather in Melbourne, begged their mother to return.

Although the kids are finding it "extremely challenging," her partner said they are managing it as best they can.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Indians In Gulf
www.indiansingulf.in