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The moment a foreign correspondent realised he needed to get out of China

Neil Mitchell
Article image for The moment a foreign correspondent realised he needed to get out of China

A former ABC foreign correspondent who fled China due to fears he’d be arrested has detailed the moment ‘the fear’ kicked in.

Bill Birtles told Neil Mitchell he initially brushed off warnings from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) he should consider returning to Australia as “paranoia” and he fought to stay.

That all changed when he got a knock at the door in the middle of the night.

“When we got the knock on the door at midnight and I opened it and there were seven police officers in the alcove of my apartment, that’s when the fear kicked in,” Birtles said.

Birtles is well-versed to comment on the relationship between Australian and China given he spent several years living there.

He said there was a lot of ‘nuance’ needed to the debate, particularly when it came to issues such as China’s treatment of Uyghur people.

“I wouldn’t necessarily believe everything, but the lack of transparency speaks volumes,” Birtles said.

“There’s clearly something the Chinese government feels deeply uncomfortable about that it’s doing to these people.”

Press PLAY below to hear the full interview

Picture by Getty iStock

Neil Mitchell
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