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Australia targets Chinese journalists, scholars, pushes anti-China witch-hunt

Delusional 'China threat theory' harms Chinese students, journalists and scholars

While the residences of four Chinese journalists in June were raided by Australian intelligence agents and the visas of two Chinese nationals were revoked for groundless reasons, Chinese observers on Wednesday slammed their acts of being more of an anti-China witch hunt in line with the delusional "China threat" theory and would backfire if Australia continues on the wrong path of anti-China sentiment.

The residences of four Chinese journalists from three Chinese media outlets - Xinhua News Agency, China Media Group and China News Service in Australia - were raided and they were questioned by officers from the Australian intelligence agency in late June, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

A source close to the matter told the Global Times on Tuesday that during the raids, Chinese journalists were questioned for hours, and their computers and smartphones seized, even being asked to zip their mouths and not report the incident.

The raid was a horrendous violation of the basic rights of the Chinese journalists and freedom of the press. No matter how hard Australia tries to cover it up, it cannot conceal its hypocrisy and double standards in practicing its so-called freedom of the press, Chinese observers said.

"Australia has not given any reasonable explanation and has not returned all the items seized from the journalists, "Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said at Wednesday's media briefing, adding the agents even seized their children's tablet computers and electronic toys.

Zhao confirmed that the Chinese journalists involved have returned to China.

Amid the so-called foreign interference investigation into Australian New South Wales Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane, Australia's scrutiny on Chinahas extended to China-Australia academic exchanges since the Global Times learnt that the visas of at least two Chinese scholars were revoked by Australia on groundless "national security" reasons.

Chinese observers believe canceling the visas will hinder Chinese experts from visiting Australia for academic exchanges, plunging China-Australia relations to an extreme low point.

Academics interference

Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, revealed to the Global Times on Wednesday his visa and the visa of Li Jianjun, a professor from Beijing Foreign Studies University were both revoked by Australia on groundless "national security" reasons a month ago.

As a frequent visitor to Australia and a vocal expert on Australia studies, Chen said he was shocked to receive an email notifying that his visa was cancelled on security grounds.

"The cancellation of my Australian visa is highly shocking and very disappointing to me. I have a deep fondness of Australia as a country, a society and a culture. I have done nothing and will do nothing to act as a risk to Australia's national security."

Two Chinese journalists and the two Chinese experts were targeted by Australian intelligence agencies simply because they were in the same WeChat group as Moselmane, and a part-time office staffer of Moselmane, named John Zhang, the Global Times learnt.

Chen said it was "preposterous" that the records of the WeChat group, where they share jokes and funny memes, photos of personal excursions, fishing trips or drinks, and repost newspaper articles, are being regarded as a means of political influence.

The Australian authorities must have access to the content of the group as all their conversations within the WeChat group were normal and their friendships are entirely aboveboard, Chen said.

Moselmane had spoke openly of China's achievements in fighting against COVID-19 and he was suspected of being a Chinese "agent of influence."

Chen said he had been to Australia about six times last year for academic exchanges and now he worries that his academic work could be interrupted after his visa was revoked.

"The incidents were basically an anti-China witch hunt in line with the delusional 'China threat' theory. The aim was firstly to snoop for any evidence that might support their baseless suspicions."

It also has served as a coercive act to terrorize Chinese journalists and anybody who sympathizes with China and speaks out about the truth regarding China, Chen said.

Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the move was a comprehensive policy designed by Australia to target China, involving tightening censorship of Chinese scholars, journalists and students.

There is a consensus in political and military circles in the US and Australia that if they do not contain China, especially in the Western Pacific, the US would lose its hegemony in the region. Australia considers US hegemony in the Western Pacific as a security guarantee, Yu said.

In the context of the Trump administration's persecution and crackdown on those with links to China, including Chinese journalists in the US, it is obviously not coincidental that Canberra chose to swoop on the journalists and those whom the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) deemed as sympathizers of China, Chen said.

Australia is waging an intensifying espionage offensive against China - sending agents to China to spy, gather intelligence and recruit assets, instigating defections among Chinese nationals, spying on Chinese students and organizations in Australia, feeding fake news to media to hype up the "China espionage theory," the Global Times had learned from a source with a Chinese law-enforcement agency in June.

China-Australia relations have hit a new low in recent days as Australia keeps stigmatizing and poisoning normal bilateral exchanges and cooperation. If Australia continues on a wrong path of anti-China sentiment and does not back down, it may backfire, an expert warned.

Double standards

The latest incident targeting Chinese journalists and scholars sheds light on Australia's hypocrisy and double standards on its so-called freedom of the press, observers said.

The Australian Federal Police and ASIO refused to make any statements in response to inquiries about the raid. Not a single comment was made by the Australian authorities. If their raid had any substantial evidence linked to it, why the reticence and the cover-up? This is in fact an opaque system, without any transparency, Chinese experts argued.

When the two Australian journalists were interviewed by Chinese authorities recently for their possible links to a case regarding national security, their residences were not searched, their personal items were not taken away and they had complete freedom of movement. It was their own choice to leave China, and their personal safety was never in any danger.

However, most Australian media outlets made a melodrama out of the incident, concocting Le Carre-style fantasies of a Chinese threat to their personal and press freedoms. However, facts speak louder than words. The way the Chinese law enforcement agency has carried out the process is in sharp contrast with the Australian agencies, Chen noted.

Two reporters working for Australian media, Bill Birtles, with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Mike Smith for the Australian Financial Review, left China and landed in Sydney on Tuesday, which the Australian government claimed was out of safety concerns for them after they were questioned by Chinese authorities during a national security investigation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao had said on Tuesday that the relevant departments in China, during their investigation of a case, questioned the two journalists in accordance with law. He noted that these were normal law enforcement activities. During the entire process, Chinese departments conducted themselves in strict accordance with regulations.

Journalists are the most valuable assets for mutual understanding and improvement of bilateral relations. To terrorize and smear them is the most irrational way which would only boomerang to damage Australia's own image, Chen told the Global Times

The Global Times learnt on Wednesday that after the raids, the media coverage of the Chinese journalists in Australia was not directly being affected but as the first case under Australia's anti-foreign interference laws, the raids make Chinese journalists feel terrified and bring about a sense of insecurity in the country.

China demanded that Australia immediately stop its barbaric and unreasonable acts, stop harassing and cracking down on Chinese nationals in Australia by using any excuses and ensure the safety and legitimate rights of Chinese citizens, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday.


By Liu Caiyu and Leng Shumei Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/9 22:26:05


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