Australia stands firm on right to search Chinese journalists

Sunday, September 13, 2020

 Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton defended the government’s right to intelligence raids to prevent foreign interference, after China condemned searches on the homes of its journalists working in Australia.

Dutton declined to directly confirm that the Chinese journalists were questioned by Australia’s intelligence agency in June, saying an investigation was still underway, but said there was some “activity” by the country’s intelligence agency.

“Where (the Australian Security Intelligence Organization) has sufficient grounds for the execution of a search warrant, or for activities otherwise, then they’ll undertake that activity,” Dutton said on the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) television.

“If people are masquerading as journalists or business leaders or whoever they might be, and there’s evidence that they are acting in a contrary nature to Australian law, then .... (the) agencies will act.”

The raids were revealed by China’s foreign ministry last week in the wake of two Australian journalists leaving China after questioning by Chinese police. Australia’s trade minister said on Friday the agencies acted on evidence related to a foreign interference investigation.

On Saturday, China’s state media condemned the raids.

ABC News reported last week senior Chinese journalists and academics have been drawn into a joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. They include: the Australia bureau chief of China News Service, Tao Shelan; China Radio International's Sydney bureau chief Li Dayong; prominent Chinese scholar and media commentator Professor Chen Hong; and another leading Australian studies scholar, Li Jianjun.

Relations between Australia and its top trading partner China have been deteriorating gradually over the recent years and have soured further this year after Canberra called for an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, angering Beijing.

China has imposed trade restrictions on products including barley and wine, prompting Australia to tighten national security tests for foreign investment.-Reuters/ABC News