Mon, Mar 27, 2017 - Page 1 News List

China officials stop Sydney academic from flying home

Reuters, BEIJING and SYDNEY

This picture taken on Saturday shows Australia`s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (R) and China`s Premier Li Keqiang watching an Australian Football League (AFL) game at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney.

Photo: AFP

Chinese authorities have blocked an Australia-based academic from boarding a flight home, Australia said yesterday, after what sources said was repeated interrogation over his links to liberal intellectuals in China.

The case of long-serving University of Technology Sydney (UTS) associate professor Feng Chongyi (馮崇義) comes just as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) winds up a five-day official visit in Canberra and Sydney espousing free trade and closer economic ties between Australia and China.

Feng, who is an Australian permanent resident, but retains his Chinese passport, entered China three weeks ago.

He was first held for questioning in Kunming, the provincial capital of southwestern Yunnan Province earlier this week, before being barred from boarding a flight to Sydney at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport on Friday morning, two sources familiar with the situation told reporters.

He is traveling with his wife, who is Australian.

Having subsequently requested help from Australian authorities, Feng felt confident his case had been resolved and he would be free to travel, one of the sources said.

However, he was again notified he was on a no-fly list when attempting to board a second flight home late on Saturday.

“The Australian government is aware that a UTS professor, who is an Australian permanent resident, has been prevented from leaving China,” an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said yesterday. “According to the Australia-China consular treaty, the Australian government is able to provide consular assistance only to Australian citizens who have entered China on their Australian passport.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Feng, who was head of China Studies at UTS for 11 years, is well-known in academic circles for his research into contemporary politics, the growth of rights consciousness and democratic forces in China.

He has been vocal in the Australian media over what he and numerous fellow China experts consider Beijing’s increasing attempts to influence Australian politics and exert control over Chinese-language media.

For research into his academic work, the sources said, Feng had been meeting academics, intellectuals and rights lawyers in Beijing and other cities, before he was picked up at his hotel in Kunming by provincial state security and taken away to another hotel and questioned for three hours.

After traveling to Guangzhou to board his flight to Sydney, he received a call from the same state security officers informing him they had followed him to Guangzhou, the sources said.

They arranged to meet and Feng was questioned for another three hours over who he met while in Beijing and who his contacts were in Australia, the sources said.

It is understood that, as of yesterday morning, Feng remained free to move around within China and had not been physically detained.

Feng’s ordeal represents a rare, if not the first, instance of a prominent foreign-university academic being subjected to the same treatment.

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