ABC said Bertels was hosting a farewell drink, for example, when police visited her apartment and told her she had been banned from leaving the country, and questioned her the next day on a “national security matter” Will be called for The broadcaster did not say what the Birtles were questioned about.
Both journalists took refuge in Australian diplomatic missions in Beijing and Shanghai respectively, while Canberra negotiated with Chinese authorities and allowed them to leave the country. The deadlock persisted for five days before the travel ban was halted and they were able to return to Sydney.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marijne Payne said in a statement that the government “provided consular support to two Australian journalists in China to aid their return to Australia.”
Birtles said on ABC Tuesday that “it was very disappointing to leave under those circumstances.”
“It’s a relief to be back in a country with real rule of law,” he said. “It was a tornado and not a particularly good experience.”
AFR quoted Smith as saying “It was fantastic to be back home safely after barely five days.”
“A late night visit by the police at my house was frightening and unnecessary and right now under pressure from all foreign journalists in China,” he said.
The departure of two people is believed to mark the first time in several decades that there are no recognized Australian media journalists in China.
The Australian newspaper said on Tuesday it had been advised by Canberra to send its China correspondent, Will Glasgow, back to the country. Glasgow is currently in Australia, but went to fly to Guangzhou last Sunday, before being advised, he said on Twitter.
Tensions have been rising between China and Australia for months. After Australia called for an investigation into the origin of the coronovirus epidemic, Beijing targeted it on trade, suspending some imports of beef and slapping heavy tariffs on barley.
This is a developing story.
Chandler Thornton of CNN contributed to this report.