Australia challenges China over criminal detention of its citizen

SYDNEY (AFP) – Canberra yesterday said it was “deeply disappointed” with the criminal detention of an Australian-Chinese writer in China, demanding Beijing release him if he is being held for “his political views”.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia had received confirmation yesterday that Yang Hengjun, held by Chinese authorities since January, had been transferred to criminal detention, apparently on national security grounds.

In a strongly-worded statement, Payne said the government had raised Yang’s case repeatedly with Beijing and written twice to Foreign Minister Wang Yi requesting a “fair and transparent” resolution, as well as access for Yang to his lawyer.

“This has not occurred,” she said.

“The government has expressed concern about Dr Yang’s welfare and the conditions under which he is held,” she added.

Payne said she had still not received clarification as to why Yang, also known as Yang Jun, was being held.

“If he is being detained for his political views, then he should be released,” she said.