Australian journalist Francis James, who collapsed after crossing the border into Hong Kong from The People's Republic of China, where he had been in jail for three years, was a controversial figure in his own country before his disappearance in November 1969.
Australian journalist Francis James, who collapsed after crossing the border into Hong Kong from The People's Republic of China, where he had been in jail for three years, was a controversial figure in his own country before his disappearance in November 1969. At the time, he was a journalist on a Melbourne newspaper and chairman and publisher of a now defunct church newspaper. He had just written a series of articles in which he claimed to have visited China's Lop Nor nuclear testing ground in Sinkiang but Chinese officials denied that he had been there.
James, aged 54, was escorted across the Lo Wu border control point on Tuesday (January 16) by Australian Commissioner to Hong Kong, Mr. Ivor Bowden. On reaching the platform on the British colony's side, he collapsed and was helped onto a stretcher -- recovering sufficiently to sip tea while waiting for a helicopter to take him to hospital.
He told journalists he had not eaten for three days and was suffering from nervous exhaustion.
His whereabouts during his three years' detention, after the Chinese had found his guilty of spying, was a mystery until Monday (January 15) -- when newly-elected Labour Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Gough Whitlam, announced that James was to be freed. His release comes less than a month after the two countries established diplomatic ties.
During his career as a journalist, and outspoken critic of Australian involvement in Vietnam, James advocated closer links with The People's Republic of China. In 1966, he caused a stir in Australia when he travelled to the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, under a false name and interviewed Ho Chi Minh and other North Vietnamese leaders.
SYNOPSIS: Australian journalist Francis James, aged fifty-four, walked into Hong Kong and freedom on Tuesday after being deported from The People's Republic of China -- where he'd been in prison for three years on spying charges. Wearing a Chinese-style hat, he was escorted across the border point by Australia's Commissioner to Hong Kong, Mr. Ivor Bowden. His release was a gesture towards Australia's new Labour Government, less than a month after the two countries had established diplomatic ties.
Despite claims by Australian Premier Gough Whitlam that James was in good health, he appeared pale and weak -- and collapsed on reaching the British colony.
His collapse wasn't serious -- he recovered sufficiently to have some tea while waiting for a helicopter to take him to hospital, and told journalists he was suffering from nervous exhaustion. He hadn't eaten for three days, he said.
The Australian journalist was a controversial figure in his home country before he disappeared. He was strongly critical of Australia's involvement in Vietnam, and advocated closer links with The People's Republic of China. At the time of his disappearance, he wrote articles saying he had visited a Chinese nuclear testing ground -- which Chinese officials denied. During his imprisonment, his whereabouts were a mystery. China refused to acknowledge his detention.