Australia evacuates journalists from China

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on September 8, 2020 - Duration: 02:16s

Australia evacuates journalists from China

Two Australian foreign correspondents were rushed out of China for their safety with the help of Australian consular officials after being questioned by China's Ministry of State Security, their employers said on Tuesday.

Libby Hogan reports.

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Australia evacuates journalists from China

Two top Australian foreign correspondents were rushed out of China Monday night after what's being described as an "extraordinary diplomatic standoff".

Australia's ABC broadcaster reported both journalists were separately questioned by Chinese authorities.

ABC correspondent Bill Birtles as well as Michael Smith for The Australian Financial Review -- had then sought shelter in Australia's embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shanghai.

The ABC and AFR reported that diplomats had negotiated with Chinese officials to allow them to leave the country.

Birtles and Smith arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning and Birtles spoke to reporters on arrival.

"It's a relief to be back in a country with genuine rule of law.

But you know, this was a whirlwind and it's not kind of, it's not a particularly good experience." AFR reported both journalists had been banned from leaving China until they answered questions about a woman called Cheng Lei.

Cheng is also an Australian citizen - and she was detained in August.

She worked at a Chinese state broadcaster as a television anchor.

The correspondents were told they were "persons of interest" in an investigation into Cheng.

Australia still does not know why Chinese authorities have detained her.

ABC's Director of News, Gaven Morris praised Birtles' reporting on China and said when it's safe they will have a correspondent back on the ground in China: "We'll get straight back on the front foot and be seeking to put correspondents back there, you know, knowing that we've got some assessments to do around the information that's available to us.

We want to know that it's safe to be doing our job in China but we think it's an absolutely crucial place for us to be reporting from." This all follows relations that have turned sour between Australia and China this year.

Beijing was angry after Australia called for an independent international investigation into the source of the coronavirus pandemic.

China then blocked some of the beef it buys from Australia - and launched investigations into imports of Australian wine.

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