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Detained for almost two years, Australian writer formally charged with espionage in China

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

ANI | Beijing | Updated: 10-10-2020 20:40 IST | Created: 10-10-2020 20:40 IST
Detained for almost two years, Australian writer formally charged with espionage in China
Chinese flag. Image Credit: ANI

Languishing in jail in China for almost two years, an Australian writer and democracy activist, Yang Hengjun, has been formally charged with espionage by Chinese prosecutors, paving the way for him to face trial. The 55-year-old Yang was arrested in January 2019, ABC News reported.

He is a former employee of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He later gained Australian citizenship and became a prominent writer and outspoken political commentator. In March 2020, officers from the Chinese Government's state security bureau began the process of charging Yang over an ill-defined espionage allegation but did not provide any information about what they accused him of doing.

On Friday his lawyer, Shang Baojun, told the ABC that Yang had been "officially charged on October 7" with "espionage". Dr Yang's wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, told the ABC that she felt "helpless" after hearing her husband had been charged.

"No one could help him now. The Australian Government can't help him either. We have to follow China's law," Yuan said. "He was officially indicted by 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."

Speaking on Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australian diplomats were working hard behind the scenes to help Yang. "We're obviously keen and have been stressing, in all our diplomatic engagements around this issue, that there should be transparency, there should be a fair and just process," Morrison said.

"These are the things that we stand for as Australians, and there is no reason why we shouldn't expect the same for any Australian wherever they are in the world and including in the [People's Republic of China]. The system there is very different to the system here in Australia, and that can cause some anxiety," he added. (ANI)


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