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China bars prof from flying home to Sydney

28 March 2017

State security officials met with Feng at his hotel in Guangzhou and asked him during a two-hour conversation who he met with in China and in Australia in the course of his research, Chen said.

A Sydney-based Chinese academic will remain in China to face further questioning by secret police who have stopped him flying home to Australia.

Feng, who was head of China Studies at UTS for 11 years, is well-known in academic circles for his research into contemporary politics, the growth of rights consciousness and democratic forces in mainland China.

He was first held for questioning in Kunming, the provincial capital of southwestern Yunnan earlier this week, before being barred from boarding a flight to Sydney at Guangzhou's worldwide airport on Friday morning, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

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

"I have no idea whatsoever when I can leave China".

Human rights advocates, who closely monitor China's freedom of expression, say the case appears to be part of a broader stifling of contrary voices under President Xi Jinping.

The university said it had been in contact with Feng and was supporting him and his family, but did not know why he was barred from leaving the country.

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His apparent ordeal comes as China's Premier Li Keqiang wraps up an unprecedented five day visit to Australia in which he is promoting closer economic ties between the two countries.

"The university is also in contact with the relevant government agencies in the hope that the matter can be resolved as soon as possible", it added.

According to his laywer, Chen Jinxue, Feng has not been formally arrested or charged, reports the New York Times.

"From our understanding he has freedom of movement, he has complete freedom of communication and we are in regular contact with him", UTS Vice Chancellor Attila Brungs said.

"The Chinese government has begun to shift its bottom line", Xia said.

"Feng has always wanted China to move in the direction of democracy and constitutional government", Xia said.

"The net effect is now the Chinese community in Australia, actually their major cultural consumption is still party propaganda", he said last July.

"Feng has been very prolific in publishing research [in this area], and this has also probably angered the Chinese government", Xia said.