Chinese Xinhua state media boss flees to Beijing after being caught up ASIO raid

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Yang Jingzhong, former head of Sydney's Xinhua News Agency bureau, was targeted in a joint operation by the Federal Police and ASIO on the morning of June 26

Yang Jingzhong, former head of Sydney’s Xinhua News Agency bureau, was targeted in a joint operation by the Federal Police and ASIO on the morning of June 26

A Chinese state media boss immediately fled Australia for Beijing after his home was raided on the same day multiple searches were conducted as part of an investigation linked to NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane.

Yang Jingzhong, former head of Sydney’s Xinhua News Agency bureau, was targeted in a joint operation by the Federal Police and ASIO on the morning of June 26.

The Communist Party mouthpiece reported on Wednesday ‘Chinese journalists’ were interrogated for several hours and had their digital devices seized by investigators.

Australian intelligence and police officers raided the home and office of Mr Moselmane that day as part of a months-long investigation into covert Chinese influence campaigns in Australia.

The Lebanese-born backbencher, known for singing the praises of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, told the ABC’s 7.30 he was part of a ‘friendly’ WeChat group that included a number of ‘foreign journalists’, his staffer John Zhang and Mr Yang.

Daily Mail Australia can reveal Mr Yang immediately fled Sydney following the raids, and all Xinhua journalists in Sydney were ordered to stop working for about two weeks.

The Sydney home of NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane was raided by federal police as part of an investigation into allegations of foreign interference on June 26

The Sydney home of NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane was raided by federal police as part of an investigation into allegations of foreign interference on June 26

Federal agents are seen leaving the home of NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane in Rockdale, Sydney

Federal agents are seen leaving the home of NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane in Rockdale, Sydney

Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed on Wednesday that four Chinese journalists working in Australia were raided.

‘[The journalists were] interrogated… on the grounds of a possible breach of Australia’s anti-foreign interference laws,’ Mr Zhao said.

He said they were questioned and had their phones, computers and even their children’s tablets confiscated.

‘I would like to stress that the journalists of the Chinese media in Australia have strictly observed local laws and regulations,’ he said.

Australia’s actions ‘seriously interferes with the normal reporting duties of the Chinese media… and causes serious damage to the physical and mental health of the journalists and their families.’  

Tensions flared in the Prime Minister's Courtyard when Bai Xu (pictured), the chief of Xinhua's Canberra bureau, became angry that a SBS cameraman was filming her

Tensions flared in the Prime Minister’s Courtyard when Bai Xu (pictured), the chief of Xinhua’s Canberra bureau, became angry that a SBS cameraman was filming her

That same afternoon Xinhua’s Canberra bureau chief Bai Xu sparked a heated row in the Prime Minster’s Courtyard during a media conference.

Ms Bai became angry that a SBS cameraman was filming her.

The Australian cameraman had turned his lens on Ms Bai after witnesses claimed a photographer she was with was taking photos of other journalists.

The news of the raid on Chinese reporters comes just days after two Australian journalists fled China at the direction of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

ABC’s Bill Birtles and AFR’s Michael Smith were told they were not free to leave China as they were part of an investigation into Cheng Lei – an Australian citizen working for China’s CGTN English business news.

The pair retreated to the Australian embassy where a tense diplomatic stand off unfolded over several days before they were eventually allowed to leave. 

On Tuesday, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Australian TV anchor Cheng Lei (pictured) is suspected of 'endangering China's national interests'

On Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Australian TV anchor Cheng Lei (pictured) is suspected of ‘endangering China’s national interests’

Ms Lei was snatched by the totalitarian regime about a month ago and has not had any contact with her husband and two children since. 

Under China’s draconian laws a suspect can be kept for up to six months with no access to legal council or the outside world.

On Tuesday Mr Zhao said the Australian TV anchor is suspected of ‘endangering China’s national interests’ but no further information about the case was offered.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been spiralling to new lows as China becomes increasingly belligerence on the world stage.  

The two nations have been at loggerheads over China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, continued trade sanctions on Australian wine, beef and barely, as well as the Chinese Communist Party’s refusal to allow an independent inquiry in the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing are also believed to have carried a major cyber attack on Australian institutions after Canberra banned Huawei from participating in the construction of Australia’s 5G network in August 2018, on the grounds of national security concerns.

ABC's Bill Birtles (right) and AFR's Michael Smith (left) were told they were not free to leave China as they were part of an investigation into Cheng Lei - an Australian citizen working for China's CGTN English business news

ABC’s Bill Birtles (right) and AFR’s Michael Smith (left) were told they were not free to leave China as they were part of an investigation into Cheng Lei – an Australian citizen working for China’s CGTN English business news

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