China formally arrests Australian writer on suspicion of spying

30 Août, 2019, 08:09 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang

Australia is urging China to treat a dual citizen charged with espionage in Beijing in accordance with global laws.

Academic and democracy advocate Yang Hengjun has been held for seven months by Chinese authorities, accused of committing espionage.

Yang's Melbourne lawyer Rob Stary said the basis for the espionage charge was unclear.

"Since that time, China has not explained the reasons for Dr Yang's detention, nor has it allowed him access to his lawyers or family visits", the minister was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released", she added.

"But ... if he is to be detained, that he is detained in accordance with the expectations afforded to him through conventions and worldwide law and they include access to lawyers, and they include appropriate conditions of detention".

In Beijing, China's foreign ministry on Tuesday said Yang is suspected of engaging in criminal activities that endanger the country's security. The government will be briefed on that meeting and Yang's condition.

Asked whether consular briefings on Yang had reported any evidence of maltreatment or torture, Payne said: "We want to make it very clear that under no circumstances should any Australian citizen be exposed to any treatment of that sort".

He has been detained in Beijing ever since.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) confirmed Yang's formal arrest on Friday on suspicion of espionage - and told Australia to back off.

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He also expressed China's "strong dissatisfaction with Australia's statement on the case".

"The Australian side should earnestly respect China's judicial sovereignty and must not intervene in China's handling of the case in any way", he asserted.

Geng insisted Yang was being afforded due process. According to law, his rights are lawfully and fully guaranteed. "He is in good physical condition".

Yang was formerly a diplomat for the People's Republic of China's ministry of foreign affairs, before working in the private sector in Hong Kong and moving to the USA, then to Australia. A novelist under the nom de plume Wei Shi, he has been a popular blogger, political commentator and agitator for democratic reforms in China for more than a decade.

The dual-national was detained in Guangzhou in January during a stopover while travelling from the U.S.to Australia.

Yang Hengjun is now being held by the Chinese government.

He is the latest in a string of foreign nationals to be arrested in China and charged with espionage or attempting to steal state secrets.

The Chinese-born Swedish author and bookseller Gui Minhai was twice seized while inside China, and remains in detention.

Three Canadians have been detained: in addition to Kovrig and Spavor, the billionaire businessman Xiao Jianhua was abducted from a luxury hotel in 2017.

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