Australian Journalists Flown out of China ‘amid Diplomatic Standoff’

 Australian Journalists Flown out of China ‘amid Diplomatic Standoff’

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Bill Birtles and the Australian Financial Review’s Mike Smith landed in Sydney on Tuesday.Chinese authorities questioned both men before their departure. The ABC reported Birtles was “not asked about his reporting or conduct in China”.Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated in recent years.There had been allegations of Chinese interference in Australian society in the past, but ties worsened after Canberra backed an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said on Monday a record 17 foreign journalists were expelled from the country in the first half of 2020.Australian Foreign Minister (AFR) Marise Payne said consular officials had assisted the pair in returning home.”I also want to note that Australia is of course a strong supporter of media freedom, freedom of the press, and that it is disappointing that after many years, Australia will not have a media organisation present in China for some period of time,” she added in a statement on Tuesday.The AFR reported that Chinese authorities had questioned the journalists about Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist for Chinese state media who has been detained since last month.In their first comments on the detention, the Chinese foreign ministry said she was being held on “national security grounds”.


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