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Australian journalist forced to flee China says the ‘intimidating’ ordeal is part of a ‘puzzling’ shift

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One of the two Australian journalists urgently pulled out of China after fears they weren’t safe in the country says Beijing’s foreign policy shift is “puzzling”.

The Australian Financial Review‘s China correspondent Michael Smith and ABC reporter Bill Birtles landed in Sydney yesterday.

The pair were urgently evacuated from China after concerning interactions with Chinese state security officers.

They were the last two Australian journalists working in the country.

It comes after the Australian government last month upgraded travel advice to China, warning Australians may be detained.

Mr Smith told Neil Mitchell “it seems like the stakes have changed in China”.

“Some of the actions they’ve taken in the last few months against Australia with our trade, and not to mention the way we were treated this week, it’s pretty puzzling.

“It’s still unclear why they are being so aggressive and what they think they can get out of this.”

The AFR journalist said he wasn’t concerned when Australia’s travel advice to China changed, but now he is.

“All the Aussie businesspeople I know in Shanghai, they weren’t too worried, the sort of thought it was overkill,” he said.

“But I’ve changed my mind in the last week. I think there is a risk now.

“When you’ve got seven security police banging on your door in the middle of the night and quizzing you … it’s very intimidating.

“I think there’s a sense in China now that this is our time and we’re powerful enough now, we don’t want western powers bossing us around.”

Press PLAY below for the full interview.