Australian writer to be tried on espionage charges in China

Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang
Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang
8:07am, Mon 24 May 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Australian writer and blogger Yang Hengjun will be tried by a Chinese court on espionage charges on Thursday amid deteriorating relations between the countries, officials have said.

Yang has been held since arriving in China in January 2019 and has had no access to family and only limited contact with his legal representation, according to Australian foreign minister Marise Payne.

She said in a statement: “Despite repeated requests by Australian officials, Chinese authorities have not provided any explanation or evidence for the charges facing Dr Yang.”

As relations with China have nose-dived, Beijing has blocked Australian exports including beef, wine, coal, lobsters, wood and barley.

However, Australia’s most lucrative export, iron ore, still has eager buyers among Chinese steel manufacturers.

Ms Payne said Australian officials had been requested access to Yang in what has so far been a “closed and opaque process”.

“As a basic standard of justice, access to the trial for observers should be a bare minimum to conform with international norms of transparency,” she said.

A close family friend, Feng Chongyi, described the case against Yang as “fabricated … for political persecution and political purposes, and I have never had any illusion over a fair trial.

“Given Beijing’s determination to punish him and the current bad relations between Australia and China, I am deeply concerned that Yang’s sentence will be harsh.”

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