Chongyi Feng, Australian academic banned from leaving China, told not to talkPosted: March 28, 2017
Associate professor questioned about human rights research says he does not know when he will be able to leave
An Australian academic researching human rights and barred from leaving China by state security agents on suspicion of endangering national security has been told not to reveal the details of his ordeal.
Chongyi Feng, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, was stopped twice at immigration checkpoints at the weekend while attempting to take flights to Australia from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, his lawyer said. He has not been formally detained or arrested and is still living at his hotel with his wife.
Feng’s interrogation came in the middle of a high-profile, five-day visit by the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, to Australia – the first by a Chinese premier in 11 years. Li was pushing closer trade ties and cautioned his hosts on picking sides between the US and China in a return to “cold war” mentality.
When reached by phone at his hotel, Feng, 56, was tight-lipped about his current situation, saying only he had been advised not to talk to the media, but did say he was unsure when he would be able to return to Australia.
“State security is questioning him about who he met while in China, about human rights lawyers,” Chen Jinxue, a friend and Feng’s lawyer, said. “They want to know more about his research into human rights lawyers and he has been barred from leaving China on suspicion of harming national security.”
Since he was stopped at the airport, Feng has been repeatedly questioned by national security officers. He was born in China and is a permanent resident in Australia but not a citizen, Chen said.
China’s human rights attorneys have faced a series of crackdown in recent years, beginning with a nationwide sweep in 2015 that netted about 250 lawyers and activists. Under the president, Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has increased restrictions on expression and stepped up efforts to silence critics both at home and abroad.
Feng was headed back to Australia after three weeks conducting field research in China. He had previously been questioned by police while in another city, Kunming, his lawyer said.
“Australia doesn’t really do enough for human rights,” said John Hugh, a spokesman for the Australian Values Alliance, who has been in contact with Feng. “Quite a few politicians focus more on the economic exchange and short-term gains, rather than standing by our principles.”
Feng was a member of the Australian Values Alliance, a group of Chinese people “advocating for safeguarding democracy, human rights, equality and freedom”. The group is calling on the Australian government to help secure Feng’s release.
The University of Technology Sydney has also spoken to Feng and is supporting his daughter.
“We have been in regular contact with Dr Feng, including as recently as this morning. He is well and in good spirits,” Greg Welsh, a spokesman for Feng’s university said. “We understand the Australian Government is taking the matter up although there are diplomatic constraints due to the fact that Professor Feng is not an Australian citizen and was travelling on his Chinese passport.”
Feng has long been involved in research over China’s political future and has advocated for liberalisation of the current Communist-controlled system. He has also spoken out against Chinese government attempts to exert influence over Australia’s Chinese community, especially through Chinese-language media.
Sydney academic stranded in China may have upset authorities, friend says
“Since Xi Jinping came to office, he has not only failed to lead China forward in reform and opening up and constitutional government, he has made an historical U-turn,” he wrote last year in response to the 2015 crackdown on rights lawyers. “He has restored totalitarian values and destroyed existing achievements in the rule of law.”
Feng was also critical of a planned series of concerts last year in Sydney and Melbourne commemorating the 40th anniversary of the death of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reiterated its previous response that it could only provide consular assistance to Australian citizens.
“However, the government is monitoring developments closely and has raised this case with senior Chinese officials,” a spokeswoman said.
Source: The Guardian “Chongyi Feng, Australian academic banned from leaving China, told not to talk”
Note: This is The Guardian’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.