Two Australian journalists fled China on Monday night after Chinese authorities sought to interview them, according to the Australian government and their employers. They were the last two accredited Australian journalists in China. Australian diplomats negotiated the two journalists’ departure in return for allowing Chinese authorities question the journalists in their presence. Birtles and Smith sheltered in Australian diplomatic missions prior to departing.
Last week, the Australian embassy in China recommended Beijing-based Bill Birtles of the ABC leave the country following the arrest of Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist working for Chinese state-broadcaster CGTN.
However, the day before his scheduled departure, Chinese police visited his residence and informed him that he was banned from traveling until he spoke with authorities about a "national security case." Fellow Australian journalist Michael Smith of the Australian Financial Review (AFR) had a similar encounter that same evening. Both journalists were initially asked about Cheng, who remains detained without charge.
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