How China’s strained relationship with foreign media unravelled

Reporting in China has historically been difficult, but Beijing is now using journalists to retaliate against governments with whom it disagrees

Last Wednesday in the middle of the night, Australian reporters Bill Birtles in Beijing and Mike Smith in Shanghai received simultaneous knocks on the door of their homes. Outside were groups of state security officers, there to inform the journalists they were needed for questioning over a national security matter. In case they were thinking of leaving, they had also been placed under exit bans.

Smith had already packed his bags and Birtles was that night hosting a farewell party, having been warned by Australian government officials of an increased risk to their safety after the recent detention of another Australian journalist Cheng Lei.

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