When correspondents Bill Birtles and Michael Smith abruptly left China in September 2020 after late night visits from China’s notorious secret police, it marked the first time in decades that Australia had no journalists on the ground. Bill went on to write The Truth About China: Propaganda, Patriotism and the Search for Truth. He joins Trevor Watson, the co-editor of The Beijing Bureau, a collection of essays from some of Australia’s leading correspondents based in China from 1970 to the near present, and Hong Kong-based China correspondent Sue-Lin Wong, to discuss their experiences and insights, in a conversation led by Melissa Roberts, co-editor of The Beijing Bureau.
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Bill Birtles was the ABC's China correspondent in Beijing from 2015 to 2020, his posting coming to a sudden end when he was rushed out of the country by Australian diplomats in an unprecedented diplomatic standoff. He has since covered South-East Asia as the ABC's Indonesia Bureau Chief, based in Jakarta, and most recently has been based in Taiwan.
Melissa Roberts, co-editor of The Beijing Bureau, is a journalist and author. She covered China from 1988 to 1990, freelancing for Time Magazine, The Monitor and The Daily Mail. She has reported from Port Moresby, New Delhi and the Canberra Press Gallery; worked for The Australian as a journalist and deputy foreign editor; and covered Singapore and Australia for Newsweek magazine. She is the author of five children’s books and is currently working on a new book on Australian women correspondents.
Trevor Watson is a multi-award winning journalist, author and media consultant with 50 years of national and international experience. Trevor has been variously based in New Delhi, Port Moresby, Beijing, Bangkok and Singapore as a correspondent for the ABC and has a Walkley Award for his coverage of the South Pacific and a United Nations Media Peace Prize. His first book was Tremble and Obey; an ABC Correspondent's Account of the Bloody Beijing Spring, and he is co-editor of TheBeijing Bureau, which focuses on Australian journalists in China.
Sue-Lin Wong is The Economist’s China correspondent, focusing on society and politics in mainland China and Hong Kong. She was formerly South China correspondent at The Financial Times where she covered Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019 and the rise of China’s technology companies and before that was a correspondent at Reuters covering topics including the Chinese economy and North Korea. She opened the Shenzhen bureaus of the Financial Times and Reuters.