Lawyer says China has charged Chinese-Australian writer

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Chinese-Australian writer detained in Beijing since January was charged yesterday and moved to a different detention centre in the Chinese capital, his lawyer said.

Australian lawyer Rob Stary said he had been told by Yang Hengjun’s family and friends of the charge and was seeking confirmation from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Stary said he did not know what the 53-year-old visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York had been charged with.

“It’s an offence under their state security laws. We expect it will be some form of espionage or something of that nature,” Stary said.

Chinese authorities had until July 27 to decide whether they would charge the novelist and former Chinese diplomat. His six-month detention order is due to expire on that date.

He has been detained since January 19, when he arrived from New York at China’s Guangzhou Airport with his wife, Xiaoliang Yuan, and his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

China in January said Yang had been detained for allegedly endangering national security, a vague charge frequently levelled at critics of the ruling Communist Party.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne did not immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that Yang’s case remains under investigation.

“The Chinese national security department handles the case in strict accordance with the law and fully guarantees the legal rights” of Yang, Geng said.

Geng said Yang was in “good condition”.

Payne said last week that her government had raised Yang’s case “regularly with China at senior levels”.

“We have requested his case be treated fairly, transparently, and expeditiously,” Payne said in a statement.

Australia continued to have consular access and had asked that Yang be granted immediate access to his Chinese lawyers, Payne said.

“Australia has asked for clarification regarding the reasons for his detention and we have said that if he is being detained purely for his political views, then he should be released,” she said.