BEIJING, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Several Chinese journalists in Sydney had their homes raided by the Australian intelligence agency and were told to be silent, an astonishing incident in a country that boasts so-called "press freedom" and "rule of law."
On the early morning of June 26, officials of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) stormed the homes of four Chinese journalists working for three media organizations, including Xinhua News Agency, China Media Group and China News Service in Australia.
The details, however, were not revealed until Wednesday, as the journalists had been told by the Australian side to keep quiet about the raid.
According to various sources, about ten ASIO agents raided each household at early dawn without any notice, and briefly showed them a warrant.
They then searched their homes for four to six hours, screening each piece of clothes in the wardrobe. Women, still in their pajamas, were forced to get dressed and use the bathroom in the presence of ASIO staff.
The ASIO agents also interrogated Chinese journalists and seized their devices including personal and work computers, laptops, mobile phones, removable storage device and paper documents, including an iPad of a five-year-old kid.
The ASIO agents also attempted to prevent the journalists from making contact with others, including local consulate-general. After a journalist managed to contact the consulate-general, an ASIO agent refused by saying "we will not meet officers from the consulate-general."
After the raid, the journalists were told to prepare for possible further search and interrogation at any time if needed. They were followed by plain-clothes officers and their phone calls were under surveillance.
A senior official with the Chinese Embassy in Australia told Xinhua that the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney later provided the journalists with help, and on that day and afterwards, Chinese officials in both Beijing and Canberra have lodged serious presentations and protest, demanding explanation from the Australian side.
"But no reasonable explanation was offered yet," he said.
The raid has been a deeply traumatic experience for not only the journalists themselves, but also their family. It is a severe violation of their rights, including their basic human rights.
Should the raids be justifiable, why did the ASIO staff asked Chinese journalists to keep silence and no explanations were given?
There were claims that the raids were linked to labor MP in New South Wales Shaoquett Moselmane, who had his house searched on the same day. Moselmane had earlier praised China for its achievements in fighting the COVID-19.
If he was treated in that way for praising China, and Chinese journalists raided after quoting his compliment, the speech freedom in Australia would be merely a joke.
If the journalists were suspected of "foreign influence," there should be lots of China hawks in Australia have their houses raided for their closeness with the United States.
The Australian politicians said they had not injured the relationship between China and Australia, but were paranoid about almost everything relating to China: Chinese investment, Chinese scientific cooperation, Chinese technology, etc.
In contrast to the baseless accusations from Australia, China is a victim of Australian espionage, and there were photos showing bugs recovered from the Chinese Embassy in Australia.
The China-Australia relationship became closer thanks to generations of national leaders in the two countries. But the politicians nowadays pushed it down an abyss, which is the reverse of historical trend. How would their names appear in history books for their great grandchildren?
Gone are the days of McCarthyism. Australian politicians should consider their own dignity and their nation's interest, be independent, be reasonable, and do something that will be really beneficial for the future. Enditem