Australian Officials Visit Writer Detained in China

By Reuters
January 26, 2019Australia
Australian Officials Visit Writer Detained in China
Yang Hengjun, author and former Chinese diplomat, who is now an Australian citizen, display a name tag in an unspecified location in Tibet, China, mid-July, 2014. (Reuters)

BEIJING—Australian embassy officials visited on Jan. 25 a Chinese-born Australian writer being held in Beijing on suspicion of endangering state security, the Australian foreign ministry said.

China has said that Yang Jun, a naturalized Australian writer, who goes by the name Yang Hengjun, is being held under “coercive measures”—a euphemism for detention—by Beijing city’s State Security Bureau and being investigated on suspicion of endangering state security.

His lawyer has said he was suspected of espionage and is being held in “residential surveillance at a designated location,” a form of detention that allows authorities to interrogate suspects for six months without access to legal representation.

Staff from the Australian embassy in Beijing made a consular visit to Yang on Friday afternoon, the Australian ministry said on its website.

“Access to Mr. Yang was provided in accordance with our bilateral consular agreement with China,” the ministry said, adding that no details of their discussion could be provided due to privacy laws.

Australian officials said Yang was detained shortly after he flew in to the southern city of Guangzhou from New York last week.

They have also said they do not believe his detention was the result of strained relations between China and the West.

Tension has risen in recent weeks between China and some Western countries after two Canadians, a diplomat on unpaid leave and a consultant, were arrested in China on suspicion of endangering state security.

Those arrests were widely seen in the West as retaliation by China for Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s financial chief Meng Wanzhou. Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Australia joined international condemnation of the arrest of the Canadians, but Yang has long been in the sights of Chinese authorities.

Yang has criticized what he described as Chinese interference in Australia.

By Christian Shepherd

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