Last Australian journalists evacuated from China, by Olivia Casey.
ABC journalist Bill Birtles, who was evacuated from China after being questioned by the country’s Ministry of State security, says he is “relieved” to be back on home soil.
Birtles arrived in Sydney on Tuesday after taking refuge at Australia’s Embassy in Beijing for four days …
The ABC reports Chinese officials arrived at Birtles’ apartment at midnight on Wednesday as he was holding farewell drinks with friends and colleagues. He was told he was banned from leaving the country and would be questioned.
The final two journalists working for Australian media in mainland China have been evacuated from the country.
The hasty exit from China of the ABC’s Bill Birtles and Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith was triggered by the detainment of Beijing-based Australian journalist Cheng Lei, a popular television host on the state-controlled China Global Television Network.
The Australian government has not commented on the evacuation of the remainder of the Australian press corps in China, an action that reveals the profound breakdown in trust with Australia’s biggest trading partner. …
As the bilateral relationship with China has continued to spiral after the Morrison government’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, concern has mounted in Canberra that the Chinese government would engage in “hostage diplomacy” — arresting Australian citizens on the mainland to increase its leverage. …
It came after the Australian department of foreign affairs (DFAT) in July updated its travel advice to China which now warns that Chinese authorities “have detained foreigners because they’re ‘endangering national security’”.
“Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention,” the Australian government added, in travel advice many Australians in China said was an overreaction. …
Scores of Australian business people, academics and former diplomats have told The Australian they have not risked visiting China since it detained two Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, who ran a North Korean consultancy business, in late 2018. The detention of the “Two Michaels” came weeks after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on charges filed in United States courts.
The delays were couched as retaliation for the Trump Administration’s latest limitations on visa term limits for reporters working in the US on behalf of state-controlled Chinese press.
These organizations have been subjected to myriad new requirements by Trump and the administration in a push to limit electoral interference from Beijing.
Not good. A new cold war might be starting. Xi has rejected the movement in China towards towards liberalization and democracy, instead turning China back towards the Marxism of its communist revolution. With Xi as the new Mao.