Australia asks for answers on dissident missing in China


Yang Hengjun, a former employee of China's Foreign Affairs Ministry who later gained Australian citizenship and became a prominent writer and outspoken online political commentator, has not been heard from since travelling from NY to Guangzhou last week, ABC News reported.

One of those friends, Mr Feng Chongyi, an academic at the University of Technology in Sydney, said Mr Yang had been scheduled to fly on to Shanghai but never arrived.

"My judgment is based on my information that Yang Jun has been abducted by the personnel of the state security, the ministry of state security and is now detained in Beijing with his wife", Feng told The Australian newspaper. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Yang's rights and interests were being protected in accordance with Chinese law.

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne met his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, in Beijing overnight and insisted Mr Yang be given consular help "without delay".

Yang Hengjun's detention in China was earlier disclosed by Australia - days after he went missing.

Qiao Mu, a Chinese academic who now lives in the USA, said Mr Yang likely would not be held prisoner for very long.

The term is often used when Chinese investigators hold a suspect at a secret location.

"I would be concerned if there was an indication of that".

According to lawyer Mo Shaoping, Yang's family had received a written notice from Beijing's State Security Bureau confirming the writer's detention.

Australia has joined allies Canada and the U.S. in voicing its concern for perceived Chinese hostage diplomacy after a Canadian was sentenced to death in Dalian last week, following the arrest and detention of high-profile Canadian sinophiles Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.

The detention comes a month after China's detention of two Canadians, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, in what was widely seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.

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Yang previously was a Chinese foreign affairs official in Beijing, before becoming an Australian citizen and a novelist, the Australian newspaper said Wednesday.

But a decision by the Australian government in August to ban 5G technology manufactured by Chinese company Huawei pushed relations back onto a precarious footing.

Feng, who researches human rights, said pressure on the global Chinese diaspora has escalated in recent years.

"I didn't think it would be safe for him because of the situation with Huawei but he believed that he would be fine as he had been there so many times", Feng said.

"At this stage, there is no evidence of such a connection", Payne told reporters of a potential link to the Canadians' detention.

"We are calling on the Chinese authorities to ensure this matter is dealt with transparently and fairly", Payne said.

Mr Yang was briefly unreachable on a trip to China in 2011 - prompting fears he was missing - but later attributed the episode to a "misunderstanding".

"It's obvious that Yang would not have been seized if it weren't for his previous critical writings", said Summer Lopez, the senior director of the group's free expression programmes.

However, Yang is not seen as a radical dissident. He also authors spy novels. Dozens have been jailed.

China informed Australia the 53-year-old popular blogger was in custody, but has not clarified why.

Australia has joined allies in expressing concern about China's actions.

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