Tuesday, 19 November, 2019

China says holding writer on security charge

Australia asks for answers after dual citizen reported missing in China Writer Yang Hengjun 'snatched by secret police' at Chinese airport
Patty Aguilar | 25 January, 2019, 21:10

Pyne said he would press for access to Yang at meeting with his counterpart in Beijing, the minister of national defence, General Wei Fenghe, later on Thursday.

Chinese Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Yang was being held in Beijing and was suspected of engaging in criminal activities that endangered China's national security.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said staff from Australia's embassy met Chinese officials on Thursday and, while details were limited, she said there was no evidence Yang's case was linked to Australia's criticism of the detention of the Canadians. The writer, democracy activist and former Chinese diplomat was taken by security agents soon after arriving in the country on Saturday.

A Chinese-Australian writer who went missing at the weekend has been detained in China, the Australian government says. Diplomats are also entitled to communicate with and visit the person.

The Australian reports that Chinese officials say they know nothing of the whereabouts of the Chinese-Australian author. "We will continue to make representations to China to make sure this is dealt with transparently and fairly", Ms Payne added. The department said it is "seeking to clarify the nature of this detention and to obtain consular access to him, in accordance with the bilateral consular agreement".

"You can't sugarcoat this".

Feng was detained in China in 2017 near the end of a three-week trip during which he was researching human rights lawyers, and he was questioned by security services for two weeks before he was allowed to return to Australia. The embassy has just been notified. "I didn't think it would be safe for him because of the situation with Huawei but he believed that he would fine as he had been there so many times", Feng said. "But it is very concerning - I can't pretend otherwise", he told the ABC. "This is not the way relations between our two countries should be conducted, at all".

"China has an global legal obligation under [article] 12 of our 1999 treaty for full consular access & to advise what Chinese law he is alleged to have breached". Both issues have figured in speculation about the reasons for Yang's detention.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Yang hasn't communicated or posted anything on social media since Friday.

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He has been detained in China before. He later said the whole episode was a misunderstanding.

His alleged detention comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and western governments, raising fears that his case might be in retaliation for...

Those arrests were widely seen in the West as retaliation by China for Canada's arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a senior Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] executive, on December 1 at the request of the United States for allegedly violating US sanctions on Iran.

Detained in China: Canadian nationals Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

"This action generates uncertainty in our friendship with China", Mr Hastie warned.

Yang has a complicated history with Beijing, owing to his background as a former government official. He travelled to China despite warning from friends that it was too risky.

"It is possible that his arbitrary detention was created to deter members of the Australian Chinese diaspora from talking openly and honestly about political questions near to their hearts", he said.

"If they're an Australian citizen they deserve an equal defence as all of the rest of the citizens of Australia do", he said.

Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age.

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