Xinhua bureau chief searched in Australia says he was 'promoting friendship'

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Chinese journalist whose home was raided as part of an Australian anti-interference investigation in June said the action was unfounded and "baseless," in a detailed account released by Chinese media late on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

China announced earlier this month that four journalists were subject to raids by Australian intelligence and police as part of a broader investigation into an alleged plot to influence an Australian state politician.

The journalist, Yang Jingzhong, who was the Sydney bureau chief of state news agency Xinhua, said Australian authorities raided his home at 6:30 a.m. on June 26 and conducted a seven-hour search, confiscating a number of electronic devices and documents.

"I was shocked, but I quickly calmed down because I knew I had not violated any laws. However, my daughter had never experienced such a scene and was very frightened," said Yang, describing the scene.

The raids were carried out on the same day as a raid on the office of Shaoquett Moselmane, the Australian politician allegedly targeted by foreign interference efforts.

Australian Federal Police declined to comment, and the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) did not respond to a request for comment.

The Chinese journalist's account borrows heavily from an earlier response to the raids released by China's foreign ministry, which said that Australia had not given a reasonable explanation for the investigation.

Beijing earlier confirmed that all four journalists have returned to China.

The account comes amid a broader debate in some western countries over the overseas activities of Chinese state media, which put an emphasis on promoting China's image abroad, and amid deepening diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Canberra.

In the past year, the United States has required U.S.-based staff of China's top state media outlets, including Xinhua, CGTN and the People's Daily, to register as "foreign agents.''

"I have always put the promotion of friendship and cooperation between China and Australia as the focus of my work," said the Xinhua's Yang, adding that most of his work involved reporting on "cultural and economic exchanges between China and Australia.''

News of the raids targeting Chinese journalists was released by Beijing shortly after two Australian journalists were evacuated from China earlier this month, in a tense diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Australian embassy officials.

The Australian journalists were questioned by Chinese police prior to their departure in relation to the case of Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist with Beijing's state-run CGTN news channel detained in China in August. The questioning of the Australian journalists has been widely interpreted as a tit-for-tat response to the raid on Chinese journalists in Canberra, though the China's foreign ministry has denied they are linked.-Photo: The Australian