Detained Australian writer in China officially charged with espionage


Australian writer and democracy activist Yang Hengjun, detained in Beijing for almost two years, has been formally charged with espionage by Chinese prosecutors, paving the way for him to face trial.

The former employee of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and now democracy activist was told on October 07 that he had been officially charged, said his lawyer, Shang Baojun.

Yang’s wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, told the ABC she felt “helpless” after hearing her husband had been charged.

“He was officially indicted to the court and in accordance with the advice on indictment, the authority listed five crimes, however, due to confidentiality agreement, the lawyer can’t reveal any details.”

Last month Yang told his family: “I am innocent and will fight to the end.

“I will never confess to something I haven’t done.”

Yang previously revealed he had been interrogated more than 300 times and taken to meetings handcuffed and blindfolded.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has previously said allegations Yang was a spy were “absolutely untrue”.

Yang was born in Hubei in central China. He was formerly a diplomat before working in the private sector in Hong Kong and moving to Australia, then to the US.

A writer of spy novels, he has been a popular blogger, political commentator and agitator for democratic reforms in China for more than a decade.

Yang, who became an Australian citizen in 2002, had been living in the United States, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, before flying to Guangzhou with his family in January 2019. His wife and child were able to enter China, but authorities escorted Yang from the plane into detention.

He was initially held under a system known as “residential surveillance at a designated location”, a type of secret detention of up to six months in which authorities can deny a suspect access to lawyers and to family, and restrict external communication.

In July last year Yang was moved to a Beijing detention centre. (Source: The Guardian)