Australian journalists fly amid China’s ‘diplomatic deadlock’


Media caption‘It was a tornado and it’s not a particularly good experience’

Two Australian news outlets have removed their correspondents from China in what they say is a diplomatic deadlock.

Bill Bertels of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Mike Smith of the Australian Financial Review landed in Sydney on Tuesday.

Chinese men questioned both men before they left. The ABC reported that Bertels was “not asked about his reporting or conduct in China”.

Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated in recent years.

Australian Foreign Minister Marijne Payne said that consular officials had assisted journalists.

“Our embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shanghai together with Chinese government officials ensured their well-being and their return,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

AFR reported that Chinese authorities had interrogated reporters for Chinese state media about an Australian journalist, Cheng Lei, who has been detained since last month.

  • Who is the Australian TV anchor detained by China?

What is known

The ABC reported that Australian diplomats last week advised Bertels and ABC management to leave China. She was then booked into a flight due to fly to Beijing last Thursday.

But the situation escalated to midnight Wednesday when seven Chinese police officers visited the reporter’s apartment as they held farewell drinks with friends, ABC reported.

The report said that officials told Birtles that he could not leave the country and that he would be questioned later on “national security matters”.

He immediately contacted Australian consular officials, who collected him and took him to the Australian Embassy, ​​where he spent the next four days.

During that time, he was interviewed by Chinese police in the presence of Graham Fletcher, Ambassador of China to Australia.

Smith, who is based in Shanghai, also received a police visit – prompting him to visit the Australian consulate. AFR reported that both men were questioned by Ms. Lei.

He was given permission to leave the country in exchange for agreeing to be interviewed by the police.

What was the reaction?

“It is very disappointing to leave under those circumstances,” said Bertels in Sydney.

“It is a relief to come back with real legislation in the country. But it was a tornado and it’s not a particularly good experience.”

The editors of AFR, Michael Stutchbury and Paul Bailey, said they were happy that both journalists were safe.

They said in a joint statement, “The incident is targeting two journalists who were going about their normal reporting duties, both regrettable and disturbing and not in the interest of cooperative relations between Australia and China.” “

Bill Bertels and Mike Smith were the last two reporters of the Australian media working in China. Their evacuation for the first time since the 1970s means that there are no recognized Australian journalists in the country.

China is not only Australia’s major trading partner and largest customer for its coal and iron ore, but it is also one of its most important stories to cover. With increasing tensions between Beijing and Canberra, the need for journalists on the ground in China becomes ever more important.

ABC news director Gaven Morris said: “The story of China, its relationship with Australia and its role in our region and the world is one of great importance for all Australians and we want to continue to ground our people. cover it.”

But as the two countries continue to exchange political and diplomatic Jats – and with China’s widespread crackdown on Western journalists – it is difficult to see when Australian journalists will be allowed to return.

This development is not only an important marker in relations between the two countries, but it will no doubt affect Australian media coverage of this important story.

Related topics

  • Australia

  • China
  • Journalism
  • Australia-China Relations

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