CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Two Australian scholars reportedly banned from China said Thursday they had no intention of traveling there for fear for their personal safety.

The Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper Global Times cited unidentified sources in reporting the two had been banned from entering China but did not explain why. The report noted, however, Australia had revoked the visas this month of two Chinese scholars.

Chen Hong and Li Jianjun were banned as part of an Australian crackdown on covert foreign interference in domestic politics and institutions.

The laws created in 2018 have played a major part in the deterioration of relations between Australia and China.

Australians also are currently banned from leaving the country because of the coronavirus pandemic unless the government gives them exemptions to travel.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Alex Joske said he had not held or applied for a Chinese visa in years.

“While I grew up in China and would love to return in better times, I decided years ago that the Chinese government’s actions have made the personal risk from traveling to China too high,” Joske said in a statement.

Similarly, Charles Sturt University professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton said he had not applied for a visa.

“I decided two or three years ago that it would be much too dangerous for me to travel to China with the government getting increasingly paranoid and vindictive,” Hamilton told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Hamilton said the article appeared to be retaliation for Australia banning the two Chinese academics.

“It seems to be Beijing’s way of saying: ‘Well, if you’re going to do it, we’ll do it too,’” Hamilton said.

“It’s a pretty petty response, I think. But that’s the kind of mentality that the Beijing government has,” he added.

The Global Times describes Hamilton as an “anti-China scholar” and said Joske is “infamous for churning out anti-China propaganda and fabricating anti-China issues.”