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China’s state media reported that intelligence officials raided the residences of Chinese journalists based in Australia in late June, amid heightened tensions between the trading partners.
The Global Times reported the journalists were questioned and their computers and phones seized, citing a source close to the matter that it didn’t identify. Xinhua News Agency had asimilar article, while the China News Servicesaid the homes of four journalists from three Chinese media outlets were raided by Australian police on June 26, who eventually found they did nothing wrong.
A request for comment on the reports to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wasn’t immediately answered.
The reports come after China confirmed that Cheng Lei, an Australian television anchor, was being held over suspected state security violations hours after the last two correspondents from the country’s media outlets fled the country. Australia wasinformed mid-August that she had been detained.
While those issues highlight the mounting political pressures on foreign press corps operating in China, they also underscore fraying ties between Beijing and Canberra after Prime Minister Scott Morrison in April called for independent investigators be allowed into Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus.
Australia has been locked in a tussle over a series of diplomatic moves that China has interpreted as supporting the U.S. in the expanding trade and security dispute between Beijing and Washington. The media are only the latest sector to get swept up in the fight, after China curbed or launched trade actions against imports of Australian beef, wine and barley.
A Sydney-based lawmaker had his home and officeraided by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on June 26, the same day as the raids on Chinese media are alleged to have occurred. New South Wales state lawmakerShaoquett Moselmane later said the probe was linked to people allegedly advancing the goals of the Chinese government, and denied being a suspect.
— With assistance by Jing Li
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