China says holding writer on security charge

Arturo Kim
January 26, 2019

Associate Professor Feng, an academic at University of Technology Sydney, said he had warned Mr Yang recently against travelling to China, but that Mr Yang had replied that he considered himself to be safe.

Yang, a visiting scholar at Columbia University in NY, is held under "coercive measures" in Beijing by the Ministry of State Security, ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said.

Yang's detention comes ahead of a visit by Defence Minister Christopher Pyne to China on Thursday.

I see his arrest as the extension of Chinese hostage diplomacy, to take him as a hostage to press the Australian government and the Canadian government, American government.

"We would describe it as home detention but, as Mr Yang doesn't have a home in Beijing, I assume he's being held in a similar kind of situation, as opposed to being held in prison", Pyne said in the Chinese capital on the first day of an official visit. She said she wanted an explanation for why Australia was not informed until Wednesday night after Yang's friends and family had raised the alarm that he was missing.

Residential surveillance is a form of secret detention often used against Chinese activists that could mean months without access to a lawyer or contact with family.

The special detention measure allows authorities to interrogate suspects for six months without necessarily granting access to legal representation. "We believe the Chinese side already carried out its duties in terms of consular affairs", she said.

Mo said he had been retained by Yang's wife but because the case involved state security, he would need approval from the authorities before he would be able to meet Yang.

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.

Those arrests were widely seen in Western capitals as retaliation by Beijing for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, in Canada on December 1.

Mr Shorten said it was disappointing China took five days to involve Australia in the incident.

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"This is clearly not the action of a low-ranking department trying to curry favor", Feng said.

Australian embassy officials had an initial meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing on Thursday afternoon to discuss Mr Yang's detention.

Payne said there was "no evidence" Yang's arrest was part of that trend "at this stage", adding, "I'd be concerned if there was an indication of that".

He 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. He also authors spy novels.

"He has basically not publicly released any political essays in recent years", Deng said. Dozens have been jailed.

Australia has urged China to deal "transparently and fairly" with Yang's case.

Australia has previously expressed concern over the arrests of the Canadians.

"Australia can't hide from this".

Friends are anxious he may have been detained by China on security charges, the Washington Post reported.

"This detention marks the new normal in the bilateral tension, which will be constant low-level tension".

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