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Tensions escalated even further this week as Chinese state media accused Australia’s intelligence services of conducting a series of raids in June. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese journalists were raided and then ordered not comment on the incident. They allege the raids took place on June 26 on a series of Chinese journalist’s homes.
The journalists were reportedly under investigation of allegations of foreign interference into Australian politics.
The China News Service said: “At dawn of June 26 this year, Australian law enforcement officers conducted an unprovoked search on the residences of four journalists from three Chinese media organisations in Australia on the grounds of alleged violations of Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act.
“Items such as mobile phones, computers and writing materials were seized.
“In the end, the Australian investigation results proved that the Chinese journalists did not engage in activities incompatible with their identities.”
Commenting on the incident, foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian warned the government not to harass Chinese nationals.
He said today: “I want to stress that the Australian side arbitrarily searched the Chinese media journalists stationed in Australia without providing any evidence to justify their doing so, which has severely disrupted the normal reporting activities of these Chinese media in Australia, grossly violated the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of these journalists, and fully exposed the hypocrisy of those people in Australia who have the audacity to assert that they are for ‘press freedom’ and ‘respect and protection of human rights’.
“The Australian Embassy in China wantonly obstructed and disrupted the normal law enforcement activities of the Chinese side by sheltering and helping the relevant journalists evading China’s investigations.
“Such an action is incompatible with the status and functions of the mission.
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“We urge the Australian side to respect basic facts, stop using whatever excuses to harass and suppress Chinese staff in Australia, stop getting in the way of relevant Chinese departments and their law enforcement activities, and stop undermining bilateral people-to-people and cultural exchanges and damaging mutual trust.”
Australian police and intelligence agencies did not comment on the allegations, according to the BBC.
It comes as this week the Australian government revoked the visa of a Chinese professor.
Professor Chen Hong who was a director of Australian studies centre at East China Normal University received the notification from the Department of Home Affairs.
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Also this week, the Chinese government detained Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Bill Birtles and the Australian Financial Review’s, Mike Smith.
The two journalists had been questioned by Chinese authorities before returning home.
The two had been advised to leave the country following the poor relations between the two states.
Reporter for China’s CGTN and Australian national, Cheng Lei has also been held by the Chinese government under national security grounds.
Cheng has been detained since August 14 and has been accused of criminal activity towards China.
Relations between the two states have soured over the last few months following Australia’s calls for an independent investigation into the origin of coronavirus.
Like the UK, Australia also removed Huawei kit from its 5G network.
In response, China has placed new tariffs on Australian been and wine following an investigation into the export of the products.
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