Asia Minute: Australian Journalists Leave China

Sep 9, 2020

The last two journalists based in China representing major media outlets in Australia have returned to their home country — in a hurry.  It’s the latest development in a case that also involve a third Australian citizen now in government custody.

For the first time since the 1970’s there’s no China-based foreign correspondent covering the country for Australian media. Yesterday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Beijing reporter and The Australian Financial Review’s Shanghai reporter both arrived back in Australia.

ABC reports that at the end of last week, Chinese security officials showed up at the homes of the two reporters after midnight to tell them they were banned from leaving the country and would be questioned about a national security case. Both reporters went to Australia’s diplomatic facilities until they could leave China.

All of this follows the detention in August of a Chinese-born Australian journalist who had been working for the state-owned China Global Television Network. Cheng Lei moved to Australia at the age of ten and grew up there — returning to China to work for the Chinese state broadcaster and then moving to CNBC for ten years before returning to Chinese state television.

Less than three weeks ago, she stopped appearing on television and her profile and interviews were removed from the station website — with no explanation. But a Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman now says she has been detained on “national security grounds” — giving no further details.

Cheng remains an Australian citizen, the country’s channel 7 reports her two young children are living with relatives in Melbourne.