Australia seeks details of case against writer held in China

SYDNEY: Australia on Monday (Dec 2) criticized the treatment of a Chinese-born Australian writer detained by Beijing for almost a year and sought details of his case, prompting China to say it was being dealt with according to law, amid the neighbors' prickly ties.

Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese diplomat turned online journalist and blogger, was formally arrested in August on suspicion of espionage, seven months after he was originally detained in the southern city of Guangzhou.

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Espionage is punishable by death in China.

Australia had been raising concerns about Yang's imprisonment "for some time", Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, adding that the welfare of an Australian citizen was paramount.

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"Australia always has to stand up for our citizens and we have to be true to who we are as a people," he told reporters in the capital, Canberra.

Australia wanted to see clear details of the case against Yang, Morrison has said, and ensure him access to lawyers and family.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australian consular officials who recently visited Yang had reported "unacceptable" conditions, including isolation and daily interrogations, sometimes while he was shackled.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has slammed China's detention of writer Yang Hengjun. (Photo: AFP/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU)

The public rebuke immediately drew a negative response from China, which is Australia's largest trading partner. Previous diplomatic spats have resulted in disruptions to exports of coal and wine.

"Our judicial organs deal with the case in accordance with law and we fully guarantee his legitimate rights and interests," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

Yang was "now in good health condition and there is no so-called torture at all", she added.

Although Yang's more recent writings had mostly avoided Chinese politics, he became prominent in the early 2000s when he earned the nickname "democracy peddler".

One of Yang's Australian lawyers, Sarah Condon, said China's MiniRead More – Source