Foreign Minister pushes for release of detained Australian in China

Foreign Minister pushes for release of detained Australian in China”

Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been formally arrested on espionage charges in China after months of detention, Australia has confirmed.

"In China, espionage is punishable by death", Moses told AAP. The Australian government has repeatedly asked about the allegations and his detention, but has never received a response.

A Chinese-born Australian writer held in China since January has been formally arrested on suspicion of espionage, the Australian and Chinese governments said yesterday.

Payne said Yang had been held in "harsh conditions" without charge and denied access to lawyers or his family. Access to family visits and his lawyers has not been allowed.

At the time of his detention, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said Yang was being investigated for "criminal activities endangering national security".

Yang's formal arrest prompted a sharp statement from Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, who says she has raised Yang's case five times with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were detained in December.

"We have no reason to think it [Yang's arrest] is connected to other issues", Payne said.

Human rights activists urged Canberra to press for Yang's immediate release.

Academic Yang Hengjun could face the death penalty if the charges against him stand and Australian legal experts have called for the federal government to intervene.

"Post [Australia's embassy in Beijing] is continuing to advocate with Chinese authorities to ensure that he is detained in a manner that is in accord with global obligations".

Australia's New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education decided on August 22 to end a Chinese language education program involving a Beijing-backed Confucius Institute, following an investigation into foreign government links to foreign education programs. "I would like to stress that China is a country with rule of law, and Australia should earnestly respect China's judicial sovereignty and not interfere in China's handling of the case in accordance with the law in any way", he said.

Geng insisted Yang was being afforded due process.

The case is being further processed and Yang is in good health with his rights fully guaranteed, Geng added. 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.

Yang, who is also a blogger and an online journalist, was detained by Chinese authorities in January this year in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Yang's detention comes amid growing global tension over the detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China's flagship telecommunications firm Huawei.

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

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