Australian global minister says China is holding citizen in 'unacceptable' circumstances

Clay Curtis
December 4, 2019

AUSTRALIA'S foreign minister said today the treatment of a writer detained in China was "unacceptable", as his lawyer reported he was being shackled and subjected to daily interrogation.

Yang, also a former Chinese Foreign Ministry official, was arrested in Guangzhou in January while on a stopover from the USA to Australia, and was detained under a kind of house arrest without his location or charges being revealed.

According to global reports, Australia has consistently lobbied Chinese authorities for Hengjun's release, however, the Chinese foreign ministry has told Australia to not interfere in the case, and to respect the nation's judicial sovereignty.

Marise Payne said in a statement that she is "very concerned" by the reports she received after a recent consular visit to Yang Hengjun, who was detained by the Chinese government early this year.

"Our judicial organs deal with the case in accordance with law and we fully guarantee his legitimate rights and interests", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

"This has not led to any substantive changes in his treatment", the Minister underlined.

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For example, Special Envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun told lawmakers last month that "we do not have a year-end deadline". We'll see what happens. "And at least speaking for myself I have a very good personal relationship and he has with me".

"Australia always has to stand up for our citizens and we have to be true to who we are as a people".

"We would like to see the issues about access to lawyers, about getting a clear enunciation of what the matter is that have been brought against the Australian citizen at the centre of this case and that his access to family and treatment that would meet, you know, world standards is being provided to him", Morrison said.

Payne said Australia has asked for an explanation of the charges against Yang, and requested that he be treated fairly in line with worldwide norms, including being given access to his lawyers and family.

Three months ago, Beijing confirmed to the Australian government that Yang had been formally charged with espionage on August 23.

He was detained earlier this year after flying into China from NY where he had been a visiting scholar at Columbia University for two years.

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