UTS academic faces more questions in China

An Australian university academic blocked from leaving China has undergone another round of questioning by Chinese security agents.

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University of Technology Sydney associate professor Chongyi Feng, who was in China researching human rights issues, was grilled again overnight after being stopped twice from boarding a flight to Sydney late last week.

One of his Sydney-based friends, John Hugh, learned of the fresh round of questioning during a phone call with Dr Feng’s wife on Tuesday.

“She said they interviewed him yesterday but they still didn’t tell him when he could leave,” Mr Hugh told AAP on Tuesday.

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Mr Hugh, who along with Dr Feng belongs to a group of Chinese migrants advocating “freedom and dignity of the individual as one of the core Australian values”, said Dr Feng’s wife was reluctant to give any more details and appeared frustrated that she and her husband remained barred from leaving China.

Dr Feng has not been arrested or charged with any offence and has been staying in a hotel Guangzhou, in southeast China, with his wife since they were blocked from flying home to Australia last Friday and Saturday.

The China studies specialist at UTS has previously publicly criticised his homeland’s ruling Communist party and the promotion in Australia of Maoism which he has branded a symbol of violence and cultural repression.

He has spent the past few weeks in China working on his research involving human rights lawyers, hundreds of whom have been detained by officials since a crackdown in mid 2015.

Dr Feng faced initial questioning by Chinese security agents in the southwestern city of Kunming last Monday.

He and his wife travelled last week to  intending to board a flight to Sydney but were stopped at the airport.

Chinese police officers patrol on motorized platforms on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China, March, 2017AAP/AP

Since then he has undergone a series of interviews with officials from China’s National Safety Bureau, which has claimed Dr Feng is suspected of being involved in a threat to national security.

Former foreign minister Bob Carr has been making representations in Beijing and Canberra about Dr Feng’s case while UTS has appealed to the Chinese Consulate in Sydney to negotiate his release.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said it is unable to provide assistance to Dr Feng, a permanent resident, as he did not enter China on an Australian passport.

While Dr Feng remains in limbo in China, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dumped plans for parliament to debate a controversial extradition treaty with China amid opposition from government backbenchers, Labor, the Greens and independents.

Mr Turnbull had wanted Australia to ratify the treaty, arguing it was key to co-operation with China on law enforcement.

However his predecessor Tony Abbott and Liberal Senator-turned independent Cory Bernadi argued Australia shouldn’t ratify the agreement because of concerns about the transparency of China’s legal system.

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