Australian minister says author Yang Hengjun's detention in China 'not linked to Canberra policies'

Chinese-Australian author and democracy advocate Yang Jun, whose pen name is Yang Hengjun, was detained earlier this month shortly after making a rare return to China from the United States.
Chinese-Australian author and democracy advocate Yang Jun, whose pen name is Yang Hengjun, was detained earlier this month shortly after making a rare return to China from the United States.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (AFP) - There was no proof an Australian man's detention in China was linked to Canberra's policies, Australia's defence minister insisted on Monday (Jan 28), adding he had pressed Chinese officials on the case during a visit.

Chinese-Australian author and democracy advocate Yang Jun, whose pen name is Yang Hengjun, was detained earlier this month shortly after making a rare return to China from the United States.

The foreign ministry in Beijing says he is suspected of endangering "China's national security" - which often implies espionage allegations in China.

His detention comes amid heightened tensions between Western countries and an increasingly muscular Beijing, which detained two Canadians last month amid a diplomatic row with Ottawa.

Speaking in Singapore, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said he did not "see any evidence that the detention of Mr Yang is linked to decisions that the Australian government has made in recent times". "Nor do I see it as being linked to the detention of the two Canadians".

Australia banned Huawei from participating in its 5G network in August over security fears, the latest country to do so, as Washington mounts a worldwide campaign to have the firm's equipment blacklisted.

Pyne said he had raised Yang's detention during a visit to China last week.

The minister said he had spoken to senior military officials in the southern city of Guangzhou "to ensure that (Yang) is being well cared for, being treated fairly and transparently, and we have consular access to him and that access is being granted".

Australia said on Friday it had been granted consular access to Yang. Canberra had previously complained it was notified four days after the detention, instead of three days as required.

Yang left mainland China for Hong Kong in 1992 and became an Australian citizen in 2000.

The two Canadians were detained in China after Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada on a US extradition request.

Canberra has increasingly found itself caught in the middle of tensions between its key ally Washington and vital trading partner Beijing.

Pyne, speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, played down suggestions that US-China tensions amounted to a "new Cold War", insisting: "We are not interested in containing China."