Treatment of Australian citizen Yang Hengjun detained in China ‘unacceptable’


Updated

March 25, 2020 17:21:19

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has lashed out at Beijing for failing to inform Australia that China had moved to formally indict Sydney writer and democracy activist Yang Hengjun.

Key points:

  • Senator Payne has criticised China for formally indicting Sydney man Yang Hengjun
  • Dr Yang has been detained for more than 420 days over as yet unexplained allegations relating to espionage
  • He is now almost certain to face trial in China

Senator Payne has released a statement telling Beijing she was very disappointed that Australia’s concerns regarding Dr Yang had not been dealt with.

“Crises are a time for nations to pull together. It is not in the spirit of mutual respect and trust that our continued advocacy for Dr Yang has not been acknowledged,” she said.

Yesterday the Chinese Government moved to formally charge Dr Yang over an ill-defined espionage allegation. He has been detained in China for more than 420 days.

“We deeply regret that for over a year, our requests have not been taken up,” Senator Payne said.

“Dr Yang has had no access to legal representation and has been held in harsh conditions that have been detrimental to his physical and mental health [and] we have asked repeatedly that basic international standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment apply.

“The Australian Government will always support Dr Yang.”

Payne calls for Yang’s immediate release

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have previously said Australia should not interfere in the case.

Senator Payne noted that Australians consular officials have been prevented from visiting Dr Yang since December — Chinese officials have said that is because of concerns about coronavirus infection.

“In the absence of consular visits as a result of COVID-19, we have requested contact by telephone or correspondence. Both requests have been rejected,” she said.

“This is unacceptable treatment of an Australian citizen.”

She also expressed concern for his health, which has deteriorated since he was detained.

“Dr Yang’s poor health makes him especially vulnerable to COVID-19. In our most recent representations, we appealed for humanitarian considerations to apply to Dr Yang’s situation,” the senator said.

“We call for Dr Yang’s immediate release and that he be allowed to leave China and travel to Australia with his wife.”

He was detained in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in January last year and formally arrested seven months later.

That formal arrest began a seven-month period of investigation.

Under Chinese law, investigators were required to either release or formally charge Dr Yang during that period, which expired on Monday.

This new step means Dr Yang is almost certain to now face trial in the Chinese judicial system.

To date, Beijing has not provided any information regarding what they accuse Dr Yang of doing, other than to say he is accused of “espionage”.

On Monday, ABC News revealed Dr Yang’s background as an intelligence officer for China’s most powerful spy agency, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), and how he eventually broke with the Chinese state to become a supporter of Western-style democracy.

Dr Yang’s wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, was also detained at Guangzhou Airport and subsequently interviewed by China’s secret police.

She is concerned Beijing may seek to also charge her with endangering national security.

Lawyer refused contact due to coronavirus concerns

Dr Yang’s Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping said he was informed by Chinese authorities on Tuesday of the decision to transfer his client’s case to a legal supervisory body known as the People’s Procuratorates, which would be similar to an office of government prosecutors.

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Under Chinese law, all cases that have been recommended for prosecution must be reviewed by the procuratorates.

Procuratorates examine the evidence required for the suspect to be to put on trial and, in most cases, issues a decision to prosecute within a month if it believes the facts of the crime are “clear”.

They can also ask for further investigation or issue a decision to release the suspect.

The Chinese Government has prevented Australian consular officials from visiting Dr Yang since December, citing coronavirus infection concerns.

The lawyer has also been recently denied access to his client for the same reasons.

Dr Yang’s Australian friend and academic mentor, University of Technology Sydney professor Feng Chongyi, said he viewed the move as outrageous.

“There is no justifiable reason to transfer Yang’s case to the prosecutors so they can approve a trial, because there is no evidence to substantiate the charge of espionage,” Professor Feng said.

Dr Yang has repeatedly told people who have visited him in his Beijing detention centre that he is willing to prove his innocence in court.

Topics:

foreign-affairs,

security-intelligence,

world-politics,

prisons-and-punishment,

law-crime-and-justice,

unrest-conflict-and-war,

human-rights,

australia,

china,

canberra-2600,

sydney-2000

First posted

March 25, 2020 17:13:06



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