An academic, who holds permanent residency status in Australia, has been prevented from boarding a flight back to Sydney because he is suspected of endangering national security, his Chinese lawyer has said.

Feng Chongyi, a Chinese-born professor, has spoken publicly about Beijing’s growing influence on Australia’s Chinese media. He entered China using his Chinese passport three weeks ago, his Chinese lawyer Chen Jinxue said.

Feng Chongyi
Feng Chongyi. Photo: RFA.

Feng’s friends in Australia told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was blocked from taking a flight to Australia at Guangzhou airport on Saturday night, the second time in two days that he was prevented from doing so.

He did not give a reason or discuss details during a brief phone call which was interrupted, they said.

Rights lawyers research

Chen told the Associated Press that his client was suspected of endangering national security. He said Feng – an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney – was at the end of a trip researching China’s crackdown on human rights lawyers.

He was repeatedly held for questioning during his trip over his meetings with academics, intellectuals and rights lawyers, which were part of his academic research, Reuters reported on Saturday, citing unnamed sources.

The Australian government said on Sunday that it was aware that a UTS professor had been prevented from leaving China.

“The Australian Government is able to provide consular assistance only to Australian citizens who have entered China on their Australian passport,” a spokesperson for the department of foreign affairs said.

Missing Taiwanese NGO worker

News that Feng is unable to leave China came amid fears that missing Taiwanese NGO worker Lee Ming-cheh is being detained by Chinese authorities. Lee has not been heard from since last Sunday, when he boarded a flight from Taipei to Macau.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council confirmed with the Chinese police that Lee crossed the border at 11:51pm on Sunday. However, the council said it did not receive any record of him either checking in at a hotel, or being arrested.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.