China’s State-backed tabloid, Global Times reported that four Chinese journalists working in state media were raided in June by Australian authorities, calling it “cold war mentality and political prejudice.” The move comes after by the Chinese state comes in the light of two Australian journalists being evacuated on Tuesday by Australian diplomats after their homes were raided by Chinese police.
Another Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who worked with Chinese state media, CGTN was detained by Chinese authorities in August with the country’s Foreign Ministry stating that they suspect her of “criminal activity endangering China’s national security.” The two other Australian journalists, Bill Birtles from Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Mike Smith from the Australian Financial Review (AFR), were questioned over their connection with Lei.
According to the Foreign Correspondents Club for China, 17 foreign journalists have been expelled from China in the first half of 2020. With the departure of Bill Birtles and Mike Smith who were the last correspondents of the Australian media working in China, this is the first time since the mid-1970s that there will be no accredited Australian journalists in the country.
This latest faceoff between Canberra and Beijing is occurring in the backdrop of the growing deterioration of relationship ever since Australian Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison called for an independent international investigation into the origin of Coronavirus in April which enraged Beijing. With 137 countries backing, Australia was able to co-sponsor a resolution at World Health Assembly for an investigation into the pandemic. Currently, an independent panel headed by former New Zealand PM Helen Clark and former Liberian President Elen Johnson Sirleaf will deliver an interim report in November. China has retaliated against Australia by imposing trade sanction on Australian goods (beef, barley, wine) and has cautioned its students against choosing Australian universities.