A Chinese-born Australian author detained for months in China has been formally arrested on fees of espionage, officials in Canberra confirmed on Tuesday.
Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese diplomat who reportedly turned an Australian citizen in 2002 but retained a Chinese passport, has also lived and worked in the U.S.
He’s the author of three spy novels set in China. Up to now, he has written voluminously on his blog about the rule of law, democracy, and human rights, based on news. However, based on Reuters, in recent years, he has stayed away from sensitive matters and concentrated instead on running an import-export business.
Yang was first detained seven months ago in China’s southern province of Guangzhou after arriving there from New York en path to Beijing, based on the news agency. Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Yang has been held under “harsh situations” and that Canberra has “serious concerns” for his welfare.
“There isn’t any basis for any allegation Dr. Yang was spying for the Australian government,” Payne stated of Yang, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Expertise in Sydney.
She stated she was “very concerned and disappointed” and would “advocate strongly” for his release.
Rob Stary, an Australia-based attorney for Yang, mentioned the Chinese government had given no details on the charge of espionage.
A China-based lawyer for Yang, Shang Baojun, was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying there can be an investigation for “at least two months” and “if they find him guilty, the case will be handed over to prosecutors.”
According to the Herald, these close to Yang believe his academic work, and pro-democracy activism may be the reason for his arrest.
Yang’s wife, Yian Xiaoling, a Chinese citizen who is also reportedly an everlasting resident of Australia, was prevented from leaving China and questioned by Chinese authorities, The Guardian reported.
Payne said she had spoken to Chinese officers twice and had written to him on multiple events in the past several months.
“It is important, and we expect, that fundamental standards of justice and procedural fairness are met. I respectfully reiterate my earlier requests that if Dr. Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released,” she mentioned.
Yang faces more than ten years in prison if found guilty.