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Last 2 journalists working for Australian media leave China

The last two journalists working for Australian media in China have left the country after police demanded interviews with them and temporarily blocked their departures, the Australian government, and their employers said Tuesday.

Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Bill Birtles and The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith landed in Sydney after flying from Shanghai on Monday night, both news outlets reported.

Both had sheltered in Australian diplomatic compounds in recent days.


Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of China's National People's Congress in Beijing in May. (AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing in May. (AP)

The journalists left after Australia revealed last week that Australian citizen Cheng Lei, a business news anchor for CGTN, China’s English-language state media channel, had been detained.

Both journalists were told they were “persons of interest” in an investigation into Cheng, The Australian Financial Review reported. Seven uniformed police visited each journalist’s home in Beijing and Shanghai at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, the newspaper said.

Australian Embassy officials in Beijing told Birtles last week that he should leave China, ABC reported.

Birtles was due to depart Beijing on Thursday and was holding a farewell party on Wednesday when police came to his apartment and told him he was banned from leaving the country, ABC said. He was told he would be contacted on Thursday to organize a time to be questioned about a “national security case,” his employer said.

Birtles went to the Australian Embassy, where he spent four days while Australian and Chinese officials negotiated. Smith had similarly holed up at the Australian Consulate in Shanghai.

Birtles and Smith both agreed to give police a brief interview in return for being allowed to leave the country.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed that her government had provided consular support to the two journalists to assist their return to Australia.

“Our embassy in Beijing and consulate-general in Shanghai engaged with Chinese government authorities to ensure their well-being and return to Australia,” she said.

Australia’s travel warning of the risk of arbitrary detention in China “remains appropriate and unchanged,” she added.

ABC news director Gaven Morris said Birtles was brought back to Australia on the Australian government’s advice.

“This bureau is a vital part of the ABC’s international news-gathering effort and we aim to get back there as soon as possible,” Morris said.


“The story of China, its relationship with Australia and its role in our region and in the world is one of great importance for all Australians and we want to continue having our people on the ground to cover it,” he added.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Michael Stutchbury, and editor, Paul Bailey, described the situation as “disturbing.”

“This incident targeting two journalists, who were going about their normal reporting duties, is both regrettable and disturbing and is not in the interests of a co-operative relationship between Australia and China,” they said in a statement.

Relations between China and Australia were already strained by Australia outlawing covert interference in politics and banning communications giant Huawei from supplying critical infrastructure. They have worsened since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of and international responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia’s journalist union, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said China was no longer safe for foreign reporters.

“These outrageous attacks on press freedom place any foreign correspondents reporting from China at risk,” union president Marcus Strom said in a statement.

Birtles told reporters at Sydney’s airport that his departure was a “whirlwind and … not a particularly good experience.”


“It’s very disappointing to have to leave under those circumstances and it’s a relief to be back in a country with genuine rule of law,” Birtles said.

Smith told his newspaper: “The late-night visit by police at my home was intimidating and unnecessary and highlights the pressure all foreign journalists are under in China right now.”

Smith said at the airport that he had felt “a little bit” threatened in China.

“It’s so good to be home, so happy, I can’t say any more at the moment, it’s such a relief to be home, so really happy,” Smith said.


“It was a complicated experience but it’s great to be here,” he added.

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Australian KFC Order Leads To Coronavirus Fines

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Two paramedics stopped for a meal at an Australian KFC restaurant in the suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, early Friday morning when they noticed something suspicious.

A pair of customers had ordered roughly 20 takeout meals at 1:30 a.m.

The substantial order raised eyebrows because large parts of Victoria are currently back in lockdown following a sudden dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the last few days. The state’s second lockdown will last six weeks, with large gatherings strictly banned and people allowed out of their homes for essential reasons.

The ambulance workers, or “ambos” as Australians call them, grew suspicious so they spoke with the KFC staff.

They then alerted police to the license plate of the customers’ car, and officers followed the vehicle to an address in the suburb of Dandenong.

At a house, they found two people asleep in a front room — but 16 more who had been celebrating a birthday party were hiding out at the back.

The takeout chicken had been ordered to feed the hungry guests.

“That is absolutely ridiculous, that type of behavior,” Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Shane Patton told reporters at a press conference Friday.

All the 16 partygoers were issued fines — a total of $26,000 AUD, or almost $18,000 USD.

“It’s a very expensive night,” Patton said.

“That’s a heck of a birthday party to recall,” he added, “and they’ll remember that one for a long time.”

Like New Zealand, Australia had seen a relatively small number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic, but in the last week infections have suddenly spiked, mostly in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.

Residents are now being urged by the state’s leader, Premier Daniel Andrews, to wear masks in public as Victoria recorded its largest daily increase in coronavirus cases on Friday, with 288 COVID-19 infections being diagnosed in 24 hours.

Commissioner Patton said the birthday partygoers were not the only ones to be fined overnight.

Four sex workers were fined at a brothel that was still receiving customers, as were a couple who tried twice to reach their holiday house via a car against orders to remain at their primary place of residence.

“This type of conduct, this type of blatant, obvious, deliberate disregard for the chief health officer’s guidelines, we will be enforcing,” said Patton.

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Coronavirus live updates: Bolsonaro hides Brazil death figures; minister criticises Australian BLM protests | World news

The exodus of migrant workers from big cities is plunging India’s factories into a crisis, Agence France-Presse reports.

An acute shortage of workers has turned the roar of machines to a soft hum at a footwear factory near New Delhi, just one of thousands in India struggling to restart after migrant workers decided to leave town during the virus lockdown.

India is slowly emerging from strict containment measures that were imposed in late March as leaders look to revive the battered economy, but manufacturers don’t have enough workers to man the machinery.

The big cities, once an attractive destination for workers from poor, rural regions, have been hit by reverse migration as millions of labourers flee back to their home villages, some uncertain if they will ever return.

Sanjeev Kharbanda, a senior executive with Aqualite Industries, which owns the footwear factory in the northern state of Haryana, said: “Sixty per cent of our labourers have gone back. How can we run a production unit with just one-third of our workforce?”

A worker is waiting for products to arrive on a production line at the Aqualite footwear factory in Bahadurgarh in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

A worker is waiting for products to arrive on a production line at the Aqualite footwear factory in Bahadurgarh in the northern Indian state of Haryana. Photograph: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Kharbanda said the company’s sports shoe unit had been sitting idle as there were no skilled workers to operate the high-tech machines.

“We are running just one shift now. The cost of production has gone up and our profits are going down,” he said, a conveyor belt carrying semi-finished flip-flops running slowly in the background.

In Gujarat state’s Surat city – where 90% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished – many factories have been unable to open after more than two-thirds of workers fled, Surat diamond association president Babu Kathiriya told AFP.

Meanwhile, the state’s salt refineries have started doubling salaries to lure staff back. But experts say the workers may not return anytime soon.

There are an estimated 100 million migrant workers – nearly a fifth of the labour force and contributing to an estimated 10% of GDP – across the nation of 1.3 billion people.

Many are employed as cheap labour across a vast range of sectors including textiles, construction, mines and small businesses.

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Australian Open 2020 results today LIVE: Kontaveit vs Halep, Rafael Nadal vs Thiem and Zverev vs Wawrinka

Welcome back to the Evening Standard’s live coverage of the 2020 Australian Open. 

Quarter-final action continues tonight with Stanislas Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev squaring off before Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem collide at the Rod Laver Arena. 

To kick off the the day’s action however, Simona Halep takes on Anett Kontaveit before Garbine Muguruza continues her bid for another grand slam against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Who will make it to the final four? Follow the action LIVE on Standard Sport overnight!

Live Updates

Can’t see the Australian Open 2020 results today LIVE blog? Click here to access our desktop page.

Australian Open 2020 results (Monday January 27)

Men’s Singles 4th round: (1) Rafael Nadal (Spa) bt (23) Nick Kyrgios (Aus) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4), (5) Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt (10) Gael Monfils (Fra) 6-2 6-4 6-4, (15) Stan Wawrinka (Swi) bt (4) Daniil Medvedev (Rus) 6-2 2-6 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-2, (7) Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt (17) Andrey Rublev (Rus) 6-4 6-4 6-4

Women’s Singles 4th round: (28) Anett Kontaveit (Est) bt Iga Swiatek (Pol) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-5, (4) Simona Halep (Rom) bt (16) Elise Mertens (Bel) 6-4 6-4, Garbine Muguruza (Spa) bt (9) Kiki Bertens (Ned) 6-3 6-3, (30) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt (17) Angelique Kerber (Ger) 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2

Men’s Doubles 3rd round: Henri Kontinen (Fin) & Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger) bt Simone Bolelli (Ita) & Benoit Paire (Fra) 7-5 6-3, (11) Rajeev Ram (USA) & Joe Salisbury (Gbr) bt (6) Marcel Granollers (Spa) & Horacio Zeballos (Arg) 6-4 7-6 (13-11), (4) Ivan Dodig (Cro) & Filip Polasek (Svk) bt (13) Bob Bryan (USA) & Mike Bryan (USA) 6-3 6-4, Santiago Gonzalez (Mex) & Kenneth Skupski (Gbr) bt (16) Austin Krajicek (USA) & Franko Skugor (Cro) 6-3 6-4

Men’s Doubles Quarter-final: Alexander Bublik (Kaz) & Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt James Duckworth (Aus) & Marc Polmans (Aus) 7-6 (8-6) 7-5

Women’s Doubles 3rd round: Jennifer Brady (USA) & Caroline Dolehide (USA) bt Lara Arruabarrena (Spa) & Ons Jabeur (Tun) 6-2 6-1, (4) Barbora Krejcikova (Cze) & Katerina Siniakova (Cze) bt (16) Sofia Kenin (USA) & Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 7-5 3-6 7-5, (7) Hao-Ching Chan (Tpe) & Latisha Chan (Tpe) bt Misaki Doi (Jpn) & Monica Niculescu (Rom) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4, (3) Elise Mertens (Bel) & Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) bt (13) Veronika Kudermetova (Rus) & Alison Riske (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-2, Cori Gauff (USA) & Catherine McNally (USA) bt (10) Shuko Aoyama (Jpn) & Ena Shibahara (Jpn) 4-6 7-5 6-3, (2) Timea Babos (Hun) & Kristina Mladenovic (Fra) bt (15) Viktoria Kuzmova (Svk) & Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Blr) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3

Mixed Doubles 2nd round: Saisai Zheng (Chn) & Joran Vliegen (Bel) bt (8) Su-Wei Hsieh (Tpe) & Neal Skupski (Gbr) 3-6 6-3 11-9, Iga Swiatek (Pol) & Lukasz Kubot (Pol) bt (4) Hao-Ching Chan (Tpe) & Michael Venus (Nzl) 6-2 6-3, Astra Sharma (Aus) & John-Patrick Smith (Aus) bt (7) Samantha Stosur (Aus) & Jean-Julien Rojer (Ned) 6-3 4-6 10-4

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Australian bushfires continue to rage as death toll rises – Channel 4 News

21 Dec 2019

Australia’s bushfires are taking more lives and communities. As temperatures in western Sydney climb towards 47 celsius.


Out of control across several states now – Australia’s bushfires are taking more lives and communities. As temperatures in western Sydney climb towards 47 celsius – officials in New South Wales are urging people to delay any Christmas travel plans – warning strong winds could push the flames in unpredictable directions.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison finally returned from his controversial holiday in Hawaii – to a political firestorm over his handling of a national crisis.


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Australian police find body of man in search for missing British backpacker

Australian police have found a body they believe to be that of Aslan King, a British backpacker who went missing from a campsite at the weekend.

The body has not yet been formally identified, but local authorities believe it is that of King, 25, who has been missing in the state of Victoria since Saturday.

King, an illustrator from Brighton, was last seen at a camping ground in Princetown, on the Great Ocean Road, at about 2am on Saturday. His disappearance prompted an intensive search.

King had been camping with friends near the Twelve Apostles, about three hours southwest of Melbourne, when he suffering a suspected seizure and hit his head, before suddenly running into bushland.

Fearing King – who had been on holiday in Australia – had become disorientated and lost in the bush, police deployed a helicopter, horses, motorcycle riders, specialist rescue teams and volunteers to find him.

“The body was located about 10:15 am this morning in a creek just over a kilometre from the camping ground where Aslan was last seen,” police said.

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