Australian officials visit writer detained in China

Yang Hengjun, a well-known writer and former Chinese official with Australian citizenship, in San Diego in 2012.
Yang Hengjun, a well-known writer and former Chinese official with Australian citizenship, in San Diego in 2012.PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Australian embassy officials visited on Friday (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 naturalised 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 the authorities to interrogate suspects for six months without access to legal representation.

Staff from the Australian embassy in Beijing made a consular visit to Mr 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 Mr 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.

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

He has criticised what he described as Chinese interference in Australia.