Cheng Lei
Cheng Lei

China’s chilling response to former UQ student’s arrest

CHINA insists Australian journalist Cheng Lei's arrest was "upholding the rule of law, even as it refused to outline what she's alleged to have done - and even accused Australia of being "infected with paranoia".

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was "unaware of the specifics of the case", but went on to deliver a pointed barb at Australia.

"China values our relations with Australia. That said, the development of bilateral relations requires efforts made by both sides," she said overnight.

China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says Australia has been “infected with paranoia
China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says Australia has been “infected with paranoia". Picture: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

"China always upholds the rule of law. Unlike some other countries, we don't practice unlawful deeds in the name of the law."

In the same press statement, responding to Scott Morrison's announced foreign influence crackdown on state governments and universities, Ms Hua said Beijing did not interfere with other countries, while taking aim at the US-Australia relationship.

"As Australia is a close ally of the US, certain Australian people and forces seem to be "infected" with paranoia, dominated by China-phobia and conjectures, to the extent of losing all sense of rationality and justice that they make various accusations against normal educational and people-to-people exchange between China and Australia," she said.

"We hope the Australian government, politicians and all those with a rational mind in the country will keep their eyes on the bright future of China-US relations and on the sun, rather than on the dark clouds and disturbed by the shadows.

"We hope Australia will adopt a constructive China policy instead of a destructive one."

Australian Strategic Policy Institute director Peter Jennings said the timing of Ms Cheng's arrest as tensions with China rise was not a coincidence and it was "designed to be high profile".


"The Chinese Community Party in this is trying to create a pressure point with Australia. They will not resolve it quickly, they will leave it hang as an issue with the bilateral relationship," he said.

He described it as "coercive hostage taking" and warned there could be more to come.

"Australians in China should be concerned about this. Australian companies should be concerned about this," he said.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade there are about 50,000 Australians living in mainland China and another 100,000 in Hong Kong.


Originally published as China's chilling response to former UQ student's arrest