China correspondents for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Australian Financial Review (AFR) sought shelter in Australia’s embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shanghai as diplomats negotiated with Chinese officials to allow them to leave the country, the ABC and the AFR reported.
The two journalists – the ABC’s Bill Birtles and the AFR’s Michael Smith – had been banned from leaving China until they answered questions about detained Australian citizen and television anchor Cheng Lei, the media companies reported.
Both journalists were told they were “persons of interest” in an investigation into Cheng, a high-profile business anchor on Chinese state television, who was detained by authorities in August, the AFR report said.
Arriving at Sydney airport on Tuesday morning, Smith told reporters it was “such a relief to be home”.
Birtles told reporters at the airport “this was a whirlwind and it was not a particularly good experience”.