The Australian embassy in China obstructed law enforcement when it intervened on behalf of two journalists who later returned to Australia, Beijing said on Monday.
The actions of the embassy went beyond the scope of regular consular services, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said. He also called on Canberra to give an explanation.
The correspondents for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Australian Financial Review (AFR) sheltered in the embassy in Beijing and the consulate in Shanghai while diplomats negotiated with Chinese officials to allow them to leave the country, according to Australia’s Foreign Ministry.
The two reporters were questioned by China’s state security ministry prior to their departure. The questioning was conducted in relation to the case of Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist currently detained in China. Cheng, a business anchor on the English-language channel CGTN, was detained three weeks ago and is suspected of carrying out illegal activities that endanger China’s security.
On Wednesday, Beijing accused Australia of “blatant irrational behavior,” harassment and violation of the rights of its journalists by searching and seizing items from the homes of four Chinese state media reporters.
Australian officials cited a possible violation of the country’s foreign interference laws for their raids in June, but had not provided a “reasonable explanation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. He added that officials seized laptops, cellphones, and a child’s toy tablet from the homes of reporters from outlets including state news agency Xinhua and the China News Service.
Australia’s Attorney General Christian Porter had earlier declined to comment on “operational matters,” but added that authorities “take issues of foreign interference very seriously,” Reuters reported. The Australian Foreign Office and Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) have not commented on the issue.
If you like this story, share it with a friend!