Australian blogger writes Christmas message to readers from behind bars


An Australian writer detained in Beijing for almost two years on spying allegations, has written a Christmas message to his readers, telling them to “pursue democracy, rule of law and freedom”.

Pro-democracy blogger Yang Hengjun says, he has only become stronger after his Chinese jailers failed to break him during more than 300 rounds of interrogation that had not yielded any evidence.

Yang has been unable to receive visits from his wife or family since he was arrested in January 2019 after he arrived at Guangzhou airport from New York.

In a message, Yang said that “after torture, more than 300 interrogations and a lot of verbal abuse, I am now in a place of deeper retrospective and introspective meditation”, according to his former teacher, Feng Chongyi, who is based in Sydney.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China was a country with the rule of law and the case was being handled independently by judicial bodies.

“All of Yang Hengjun’s lawful rights have been fully guaranteed, and there is no so-called torture or abuse,” he told reporters.

Yang, 55, had revealed in a 2011 letter to Feng that he had previously worked for China’s state security agency for a decade in Hong Kong and Washington, and left the service before moving to Australia in 1999.

He later wrote spy novels that were published in Taiwan, and amassed a large online following in China as a democracy blogger, before moving to New York.

He had denied revealing any state secrets in his novels during an earlier, brief detention in 2011 on suspicion of involvement in the Jasmine Revolution democracy protests.

Australian diplomats visited Yang on December 17, one of the few visits permitted by Chinese authorities this year.

Yang’s trial, which had been due to proceed by January, has been delayed by three months.

“I still have some confidence in the court. I think they will give me justice,” Yang said in his message.

“Whether or not they judge me guilty will say a lot about whether the court is governed by rule of law or by pure absolute power,” Yang continued in the message.

“I have strong faith in humanity, in righteousness, justice and God.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last year it was “absolutely untrue” Yang had acted as a spy for Australia.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in October that Yang’s treatment in detention, with no family visits and limited legal representation, was not compatible with international norms.

Diplomatic relations between major trading partners Australia and China have worsened this year after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and Beijing imposed a series of trade reprisals. (Source: Independent UK)