Canberra, Aug 27 (IANS) An Australian writer of Chinese origin has been arrested on suspicion of espionage in China, where he has been detained since the beginning of the year, the Canberra government confirmed on Tuesday.
Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese Foreign Ministry official, was detained in Guangzhou in January during a stopover on his way to Australia and had since been held without charge, Efe news reported.
“The Government is very concerned and disappointed to learn that Australian citizen and academic Yang Hengjun was formally arrested in China on suspicion of espionage on August 23,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.
“Yang has been held in Beijing in harsh conditions without charge for more than seven months. Since that time, China has not explained the reasons for Yang’s detention, nor has it allowed him access to his lawyers or family visits,” she added.
The Foreign Minister said she had discussed the issue twice with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and had also written to him three times to express her concern about the health and wellbeing of the 53-year-old academic and pro-democracy activist.
“It is important, and we expect, that basic standards of justice and procedural fairness are met. I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released,” Payne underlined.
Yang, who worked at Columbia University and lived with his family in New York, faces between three years in prison and the death penalty if found guilty of espionage by China’s opaque judicial system.