Beijing accused Thursday the Australian Embassy of obstructing a probe into two foreign journalists who fled China, as a row rumbled on sweeping in reporters from both countries.
Two correspondents working for Australian media, Bill Birtles and Michael Smith, were hustled out of China overnight on Monday under diplomatic protection fearing arrest.
Their dramatic flight from China was the latest flare up of a protracted squabble between the two countries over trade, security and responsibility for the coronavirus.
Both men had been quizzed about another Australian citizen -- Cheng Lei, who worked as an anchor for Chinese state TV -- detained under mysterious "national security" grounds for nearly a month.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman accused the Australian Embassy in China on Thursday of helping Birtles and Smith leave the country and "evade China's investigation".
"These actions go well beyond consular protection," he said, adding they instead interfere in "China's internal affairs and judicial sovereignty."
The spokesman said Australian outrage at the treatment of the journalists was an example of a "baffling superiority complex".
Citing June 26 raids on the homes of four Chinese state media reporters posted Down Under by Australian intelligence officers, the spokesman said Canberra was guilty of "sheer hypocrisy".
"Australia says its questioning of the Chinese journalists was in accordance with normal procedures, but says China had engaged in hostage diplomacy," Zhao Lijian told reporters.
Neither ASIO, Australia's main intelligence agency, nor Australian Federal Police have confirmed the raids on the four Chinese reporters on June 26.
But court documents show intelligence officials did carry out raids elsewhere as part of a probe into covert Chinese influence campaigns in Australia.
The apparent tit-for-tat treatment by Beijing has been denounced as a crackdown on foreign media inside China.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China has warned that foreign journalists "now face the threat of arbitrary detention for simply doing their work".
China is Australia's biggest export market, but relations have nosedived in recent months.
Beijing was particularly infuriated by Canberra's role in international calls for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
China has since imposed tariffs on Australian products from beef to barley.