China Detains Australian Writer Yang Hengjun on Spying Charges
Asia, News

China Detains Australian Writer Yang Hengjun on Spying Charges 

Yang Hengjun is a prominent Chinese-Australian writer and political commentator. Hengjun, an Australian citizen, lives in the United States where he is a visiting student at Columbia University in New York. 

Hengjun recently travelled between America and China and was detained during the trip. The Chinese authorities have sent a letter to Hengjun’s family, and it appears the reason for his detention is espionage.

Hengjun’s lawyer files a petition

The Chinese system is one where people can be detained without notice. Relationship between the United States and China are strained at present, as so is the equation between Australia and China, for it had banned Chinese IT company Huawei. Mo Shapping, Hengjun’s lawyer, says that he will be filing a petition against the detention. He is however, unsure if such a petition will be acceptable, given that Hengiun is upon espionage charges.

Hengjun previously worked as an official with the Chinese foreign ministry. He is now a writer and commentator, and has an active Twitter account and a large presence in social media. He writes satirical commentary on the Chinese government. Hengjun’s detention threatens the very nature of free speech.

Yang Hengjun travelled to China on January 17, to collect an American visa for his step-daughter. Once it was clear that the writer was not responding to any of his social media followers, or reading any posts, his family figured something was wrong.

Hengjuns family learnt about his detention through Chinese authorities

As can happen with China and politics, Chinese authorities have not made any mention publicly of Hengiun’s detention. In fact, Hua Chunying, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said she had no information on Hengjun’s disappearance.

Many think this is a result of the chilly relationship between Australia and China. The Australian government banned Huawei’s 5G technology on suspicions of safety and security. This ban has angered China.

China has a reputation for cracking down and stopping individuals that they feel may threaten the Chinese government. Over the years, human rights lawyers, students, international bloggers, journalists, and labor activists have been silenced with unlawful arrests and imprisonment.

This is a frightening time for Yang Hengjun and his family. It is not the first time he has disappeared in China. Around 8 years ago, he was detained by the Chinese although this was never confirmed and nobody ever quite understood what had occurred.

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