China court to begin spying trial of Australian academic Yang Jun


Detained Australian writer Yang Jun will be tried on espionage charges in China next week after spending more than two years in detention, Australia’s foreign minister said on Friday (May 21).

Yang, who was born in China and resides in the United States, is one of two high-profile Australians detained in China on spying allegations amid escalating tensions between Canberra and Beijing.

In a statement, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the trial of Dr. Yang, who also goes by his pen name Yang Hengjun, will begin on Thursday.

“Despite repeated requests by Australian officials, Chinese authorities have not provided any explanation or evidence for the charges facing Dr. Yang,” Payne said.

“We have conveyed to Chinese authorities, in clear terms, the concerns we have about Dr. Yang’s treatment and the lack of procedural fairness in how his case has been managed.”

Payne also called for Australian officials to be granted access to the trial, criticising a process that she said had so far been “closed and opaque”.

But the Chinese embassy in Canberra labelled Payne’s comments “deplorable” and said Dr. Yang’s rights were being respected.

“The Australian side should respect China’s judicial sovereignty and refrain from interfering in any form in Chinese judicial authorities’ lawful handling of the case,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

Dr. Yang, who denies the charges, was arrested on a rare return to China from his home in the United States in January 2019.

Another Australian, TV anchor Cheng Lei has been held since August accused of “supplying state secrets overseas”.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have plummeted since Canberra called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and banned telecoms giant Huawei from building Australia’s 5G network.

China has already imposed tariffs or disrupted more than a dozen key industries, including wine, barley and coal, decimating exports.

In September, two Australian journalists were rushed out of China after police sought to question them.

Beijing meanwhile has accused Canberra of raiding the homes of Chinese state media journalists as Australia investigates an alleged campaign of covert influence. (Source: CNA)