Australia said that its security agencies acted on evidence when Chinese journalists were raided Down Under in June in relation to a foreign interference probe. Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told ABC News that the security agencies had acted according to the law when four Chinese state media journalists were raided.
“We do it purely in relation to the evidence,” he added.
China’s foreign ministry revealed the incident this week after two Australian journalists were brought in for questioning by Chinese police. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a regular press conference on September 10 that Australia describes its questioning of Chinese journalists as normal procedure, but accuses the Chinese side of engaging in "hostage diplomacy".
The spokesperson said that the Australian security and intelligence staff raided, searched and questioned four Australia-based journalists on the ground of possible violation of foreign interference laws. Zhao said that the agencies seized their working computers and mobile phones, and even educational tablets and electronic toys for children.
China accused Australia of threatening, intimidating and not allowing them to contact local China's consulate-general, leading to “serious damage to the physical and mental health” of the journalists and their families. Zhao said that the Australian side has not yet provided a reasonable explanation for raiding these journalists.
“As for the two Australian journalists, the relevant departments in China, during their investigation of a case, questioned the two journalists in accordance with law. Allegation of "hostage diplomacy" is totally groundless,” added Zhao.
Speaking about the two Australian journalists questioned by Chinese police, the spokesperson said that those were “normal law enforcement activities” and allegation of hostage diplomacy is “totally groundless”. Zhao lambasted Australia for arranging their stay in the Australian diplomatic premises and accused them of disrupting a “lawful investigation”. Birmingham denied the allegations levelled by China, saying the embassy engaged diligently to ensure the safety of the two individuals concerned.