Asia-Pacific

Australian Government 'disappointed' with transfer of Yang Hengjun to criminal detention in China

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The Australian Government is deeply disappointed that Australian citizen and academic Dr Yang Hengjun (Dr Yang Jun) has been transferred to criminal detention in China.

Yang Hengjun, the Chinese-Australian writer who has been detained in a Beijing jail for six months, has been moved from surveillance to criminal detention and is expected to be charged for endangering the state security by the Beijing National Security Agency. 

Dr Yang is expected to be charged under section 85 of the Chinese Code of Criminal Procedure, according to the formal notice received by his wife. 

He could either be charged, released or his detention extended.

The 56-year-old is no longer under house arrest and is currently being held at a Beijing detention centre. 

In January this year, Dr Yang went missing in China.

His family still don't know where exactly he is, nor when he might come home.

China has confirmed he is being held on suspicion of "endangering national security".

Experts and human rights advocates say Australia's approach to Dr Yang's detention in China has been ineffective and say active and vocal intervention is required. 

On Friday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne released a statement saying the Australian Government was 'deeply disappointed' that Dr Yang has been transferred to criminal detention in China.

"Formal notification was received today from Chinese authorities of his criminal detention," the statement read. 

"The Australian Government has raised its concerns about Dr Yang’s case regularly with China at senior levels.

"Australian Embassy officials have visited Dr Yang six times, most recently on 27 June, in accordance with our bilateral consular agreement with China.

"I have written twice to China’s Foreign Minister, State Councilor Wang Yi, to request a fair and transparent resolution to this matter and that Dr Yang be granted access to his lawyers. This has not occurred.

 Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun at a conference in Beijing in 2010 (AAP)
Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun at a conference in Beijing in 2010
AAP

"The Government has expressed concern about Dr Yang’s welfare and the conditions under which he is held. And we have asked for clarification regarding the reasons for Dr Yang’s detention.

"If he is being detained for his political views, then he should be released.

"We have worked tirelessly and in good faith with the Chinese Government to advocate for Dr Yang’s interests since he was detained. We expect basic standards of justice and procedural fairness to be met.

"The Australian Government is concerned by this development in relation to an Australian citizen.

"We will continue to press Chinese authorities for fair and humane treatment, in accordance with international norms. Our thoughts are with Dr Yang and his family during this difficult period."

The ABC on Thursday cited friends and family as saying Dr Yang is expected to be charged with endangering state security.

His Melbourne lawyer Rob Stary said the charges were yet to be confirmed by DFAT and the Chinese embassy in Canberra.

Dr Yang's lawyers are demanding Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne apply for his immediate release.

Dr Yang's wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, who is a permanent resident of Australia, has been banned from leaving China.

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