Australian held in Chinese jail since 2019

Who is Yang Hengjun? The Australian writer has been in Chinese detention for five years. Concerns for his wellbeing persist.
Who is Yang Hengjun? 

Today is five years since Chinese authorities detained Australian citizen Dr Yang Hengjun on espionage (spying) allegations.

Yang is a Chinese-born Australian writer who faced a closed trial in Beijing three years ago and still awaits a verdict.

The Australian Government has raised significant concerns about the legitimacy of Yang’s case and his treatment in detention.

Who is Yang Hengjun?

Yang is a writer who has published novels and commentaries across the world. He had occasionally criticised the Chinese Government in his writing.

He was formally arrested on suspicion of espionage in August 2019, after being detained eight months earlier. His arrest came as relations between China and Australia soured.

Yang could potentially face a death sentence if found to have caused particularly serious harm to Chinese national security.

Yang’s detention

The Australian Government has consistently raised concerns about Yang’s welfare in detention and the management of his case.

These concerns were echoed by Yang’s sons in a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ahead of his visit to China last November.

His sons fear their father may die in detention due to his declining health. According to his sons, Yang has lost weight and collapsed on several occasions since being detained.

Doctors also told Yang he had a cyst on his kidney in August last year, which he believes was first found when he was detained in 2019.

Federal Government response

On the fifth anniversary of Yang’s detention, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said today the Australian Government will “continue to advocate” for his interests and wellbeing while detained in China.

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham repeated Wong’s sentiment, adding that Yang’s detention was “unjust” and called for his case to be discontinued.

Hopes for Yang’s release were spurred on in October, when Australian journalist Cheng Lei was freed from a Chinese prison after three years in detention. Yang’s sons said Cheng’s release was inspiring, and have asked the Government to achieve a “second miracle” by securing their father’s release.

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