Last two Australian journalists in China leave country

WION Web Team
Canberra, AustraliaUpdated: Sep 08, 2020, 02:00 PM IST


Story highlights

Australia's travel warning of the risk of arbitrary detention in China remains appropriate and unchanged, Australian Foreign Minister said

China and Australia have been seeing a decline in the diplomatic ties for the past few months now, which has led to a heated environment for the Australian citizens living in China, especially the journalists. To protect the citizens, the Australian government urged all the Australian journalists to return back to the country immediately.

Following the suggest, the last two Australian journalists based in China have also left the country, the Australian government reported on late Monday night.

The decision of the journalists coming back to Australia was taken after the the Chinese government had started detaining the journalists. The two who returned back were also asked to appear for interviews by the Chinese officials.

ABC's Bill Birtles and The Australian Financial Review's Michael Smith landed in Sydney after flying from Shanghai on Monday night, ABC reported late on Monday night.

Birtles and Smith had been sheltering in Australian diplomatic compounds for the last few days after Birtles was paid a visit by the Chinese officials asking him to appear for questioning and banning him from leaving the country.

The travel ban was lifted only after the Australian officials in China reached out to their Chinese counterparts. Birtles agreed to speak to the Chinese police in exchange for permission to fly back to his home country.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed that the Australian government provided support to the two journalists for returning back to the country. "Our embassy in Beijing and Consulate-General in Shanghai engaged with Chinese Government authorities to ensure their wellbeing and return to Australia," she said in a statement.

Australia's travel warning of the risk of arbitrary detention in China "remains appropriate and unchanged", she added.

China, however, claimed that the questioning of the journalists was a normal enforcement of the law, adding that the Chinese officials strictly adhered to the law during their investigations. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also said that China hopes the Australian side can work with China to enhance mutual trust and expand cooperation.

The decision to call back both the journalists came after Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei was detained by the Chinese officials last week.