Aussies warned not to go to China as US moves on popular app

 

Australians abroad could be "arbitrarily detained" if they enter China, officials have warned in disturbing new travel advice.

A top national security expert said fears that China may engage in "hostage diplomacy" and new Hong Kong security laws were likely behind the stark warning.

The development is a worrying sign for relations between Australia and its largest trading partner.

It comes as the US becomes the latest nation to look at banning the popular app TikTok.

There have been growing Sino-Australian tensions in recent years, but increasingly so since the pandemic outbreak as China seeks to distract its domestic citizens with so-called "wolf warrior diplomacy", lashing out at numerous Western countries.

While the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade already had a "do not travel" order on China, and the rest of the world, due to coronavirus, the new warning could apply to ex-patriots living in China as well as travellers.

"Authorities have detained foreigners because they're 'endangering national security'," the warning stated.

"Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention."

The Foreign Minister and DFAT did not respond to questions before deadline yesterday.

The new warning states that if a person travels to China against advice they will face a minimum 14 day quarantine.

"Authorities have detained foreigners because they're 'endangering national security'," the warning stated.

"Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention."

Australians who are still in China have been urged to return home.

 

"If you're already in China, and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means," a statement said.

DFAT said China will not allow most foreigners to enter China due to COVID-19.

"Direct flights between China and Australia have significantly reduced," the statement said.

"If despite our advice you travel to China, you'll be subject to 14 days mandatory quarantine.

"Quarantine requirements may change at short notice."

Australian National University national security expert Rory Medcalf said the warning was the right move from the government.

"It's a sad reflection of a sad reality that we now live in and we can expect to see a range of other countries sharpen their travel advice around similar lines," he said.

He said he believed 'hostage diplomacy' was likely one of the concerns motivating the movement, as well as the Hong Kong national security laws.

"I suspect the Hong Kong national security law was probably the last straw," he said.

"It means Australians in Hong Kong or mainland China could be breaking the law without even realising it.

"Any activity that promotes or encourages freedom in Hong Kong is essentially illegal. This could extend to simply expressing an opinion."

Two Canadians were arrested in China in December 2018 in what was widely seen as "hostage diplomacy" as it came weeks after a Huawei executive was arrested in Canada, while Australian writer Yang Hengjun was detained in January 2019.

 

Dr Yang Hengjun was detained in 2019.
Dr Yang Hengjun was detained in 2019.

AMERICA TO BAN TIKTOK OVER CHINA SECURITY CONCERNS

The US has become the latest country to consider a ban on TikTok and other Chinese social media apps amid concerns over security.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the White House is taking claims that data from the video-sharing app is being shared with authorities in Beijing "very seriously".

Last week the Indian government banned 59 Chinese phone apps, including TikTok, saying that data collected from users was being used illegally and was a threat to national security.

There are calls for a similar move in Australia after a series of cyber attacks on public bodies in the country were linked to the Chinese state.

 

There are fears Chinese apps like TikTok are being used to hack western data. Picture: AFP.
There are fears Chinese apps like TikTok are being used to hack western data. Picture: AFP.

Asked about a US ban Mr Pompeo said: "With respect to Chinese apps on people's cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right.

"I don't want to get out in front of the president, but it's something we're looking at."

He added that Americans should only user the app if "you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party".

The US is home to some of TikTok's biggest stars, including dancer Charli D'Amelio, filmmaker Zack King, and actor Will Smith, who have over 140 million followers between them.

 

Actor Will Smith. Picture: Getty
Actor Will Smith. Picture: Getty

Tellingly, the platform is not available in China.

TikTok denies sharing data with Beijing and has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience.

It has announced that it will pull its app from Hong Kong following the introduction of sweeping new security laws that will increase Beijing's reach in the territory.

The laws will target crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, and it is thought Beijing intends to used them to target its political opponents.

 

Recent months have seen heightening tensions between China and the Western powers over the crackdown in Hong Kong as well as the Chinese government's handling of the coronavirus.

Pompeo's comments come amid speculation that the UK government is planning a U-turn on its decision to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to build a part of the UK's 5G network.

Critics have long argued that allowing the company, thought to have ties to the Chinese state, to build the network would undermine the UK's national security.

 

CHINESE AGGRESSION 'DISTRACTS' FROM COVID MESS

Karm Gilespie is being held in China now.
Karm Gilespie is being held in China now.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings has previously said that China's increased aggression, which has been seen globally, was about distracting its own citizens' attention away from the Communist Party's mishandling of COVID-19.

Australian actor Karm Gilespie was sentenced to death in China last month, despite having been in jail for drug trafficking for the past six years.

There have been increasing tensions between Australia and China in recent months, including over trade, Chinese travel warnings against coming to Australia, accusations of cyber espionage and the Morrison Government backing a WHO inquiry into the origin of COVID-19.

It comes as new Chinese national security laws have also come into effect in Hong Kong, which carry life in prison for any subversion or foreign collusion against the Communist government.

 

Riot police stand guard during a clearance operation during a demonstration in a mall this week in Hong Kong, China. Picture: AFP
Riot police stand guard during a clearance operation during a demonstration in a mall this week in Hong Kong, China. Picture: AFP

 

Hong Kong's leader Tuesday defended Beijing's new security law, saying it would restore stability and confidence as she vowed to "vigorously implement" the controversial legislation.

Speaking at a press conference a week after China imposed the law on the semi-autonomous city, Chief Executive Carrie Lam combined warnings with assurances to Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents.

"The Hong Kong government will vigorously implement this law," she said.

"And I forewarn those radicals not to attempt to violate this law, or cross the red line, because the consequences of breaching this law are very serious."

She denied allegations the law would stifle freedoms and hit out at what she said were "fallacies" written about its impact.

"Surely this is not doom and gloom for Hong Kong," Lam said.

"I'm sure with the passage of time … confidence will grow in 'One Country, Two Systems' and in Hong Kong's future," she added, naming the model that allows Hong Kong to keep certain liberties and autonomy from the mainland.

The national security law is the most radical shift in how Hong Kong is run since the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

The content was kept secret from Hong Kongers until the moment it was imposed one week ago, bypassing the city's legislature.

It targets crimes under four categories: subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, and gives China jurisdiction in some especially serious cases.

 

 

Originally published as Aussies warned not to go to China as US moves on popular app



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