Updated January 23, 2019 21:03:26 The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is seeking information on the whereabouts of a Chinese-Australian writer who has been out of contact after arriving in China five days ago. Key points:Yang Hengjun was travelling with his wife and child from New York to GuangzhouHis friends believe he has been…
January 23, 2019 21:03:26
The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is seeking information on the whereabouts of a Chinese-Australian writer who has been out of contact after arriving in China five days ago.
- Yang Hengjun was travelling with his wife and child from New York to Guangzhou
- His friends believe he has been detained, and they have not been able to contact him
- China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “not familiar” with the situation
Yang Hengjun, a former employee of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who later gained Australian citizenship and became a prominent writer and outspoken online political commentator, has not been heard from since travelling from New York to Guangzhou last week.
Friends, including Feng Chongyi, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, said Mr Yang was travelling with his wife and child and had originally planned to travel to Shanghai on January 19.
But Professor Feng said a witness at Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport saw Mr Yang being taken away by 10 state security police after he arrived from New York on Saturday morning.
His wife, a Chinese national, and her son were able to board a connecting flight to Shanghai, but according to Professor Feng, Yang Hengjun was stopped from boarding the flight and instead taken to Beijing.
The ABC has been unable to verify this claim, and Mr Yang’s family members in Shanghai could not be reached for comment.
However, his wife used social media to subsequently post a message from Beijing, where her husband is said to be detained.
Calls to Mr Yang’s Chinese mobile number rang out and he was not responding to messages online.
Mr Yang’s absence on both Chinese social media and Twitter, where he has more than 130,000 followers, also raised concerns.
Mr Yang rose to prominence in Australia’s Chinese community by penning an open letter in 2008 cautioning against nationalistic displays by Chinese during the Olympic torch relay, saying they could incite racial tensions.
He later became a popular online novelist in China writing spy fiction, but he briefly disappeared in 2011 in Guangzhou, prompting concerns he had been detained amid a crackdown on liberal voices.
Mr Yang emerged a few days later claiming there had been a misunderstanding but he also thanked the Australian Government for its efforts for advocating on his behalf.
Former acquaintances in Beijing said Mr Yang had kept a relatively low profile in recent years while he was based in New York with his wife.
Chinese Foreign Ministry ‘not familiar’ with the situation
China’s Foreign Ministry said it would seek information from “relevant authorities” but was “not familiar” with the situation.
In recent previous cases where Australians or Chinese with Australian permanent residency have gone missing in China, it has taken the Foreign Ministry several days to publicly clarify the situation while its officials make enquiries with China’s public security authorities or the highly secretive State Security Ministry.
Under a consular agreement between Australia and China, Beijing must notify Australian officials about any citizens that are detained within three days — a period that has already passed.
Mr Yang’s disappearance comes as Christopher Pyne prepares to become the first Australian Defence Minister in several years to visit Beijing on Thursday.
His visit comes two months after Foreign Minister Marise Payne broke a year-long freeze imposed by China’s Government on ministerial visits to Beijing.
Her trip was viewed as a thawing of previously testy diplomatic ties.
Friends of Mr Yang fear his disappearance could be linked to an ongoing diplomatic spat between China and Canada over the arrest of a senior Huawei executive at the request of the US.
China has since detained two Canadian citizens on national security grounds, and Foreign Ministry officials in Beijing have expressed anger that Australia voiced concerns about their detention.
January 23, 2019 14:20:54
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