Dissident Writer 'Taken Away by State Security Police' on Arrival in China

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Writer Yang Hengjun in an undated photo.
Writer Yang Hengjun in an undated photo.
Yang's Twitter feed

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained an outspoken Chinese writer and political commentator who holds Australian nationality.

Yang Hengjun has been incommunicado, believed detained, since arriving at Guangzhou Airport on Jan. 19 at around 5:00 p.m., his friend and Sydney-based university lecturer Feng Chongyi told RFA.

"He was taken from Guangzhou airport to Beijing by around a dozen state security police," Feng said. "His wife and kid were also held by the state security police, but they were allowed to go to Shanghai."

"They later asked to be allowed to go to Beijing as well, so they could be with Yang Hengjun, but they haven't been allowed to see him," he said.

He said the orders for Yang's detention must have come from the top.

"This is clearly not the action of a low-ranking department trying to curry favor," Feng said. "It would have taken a huge amount of preparation, organization and secret planning to detain someone in Guangzhou and then take them to Beijing."

He said Yang had traveled to China with his wife Yuan Ruijuan and her daughter, but had joined the line for foreign nationals when the family reached immigration, while his wife and stepdaughter, who hold Chinese passports, stood in a separate line.

"[His wife and stepdaughter] are now in Shanghai, at the home of Yuan's family, but they have been told not to talk to anyone about it," Feng said.

Feng said Yang's "disappearance" could be another form of reprisal over the detention by Canada, at the request of U.S. investigators, of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China's flagship telecoms giant Huawei.

"I'm guessing it has to do with Meng Wanzhou ... because Australia released a statement calling for the release of the two Canadians who were detained," Feng said. "This is hostage diplomacy."

'Hostage diplomacy'

Yang's disappearance comes a month after China's detention of two Canadians, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, in what was widely seen as retaliation for Meng Wanzhou's arrest on suspicion of bank fraud.

"Legally, they are supposed to inform the Australian government within 48 hours of detaining an Australian citizen, but there was no notification," Feng said. "It seems that [the Chinese authorities] are prepared to do anything, with no limits, and with no regard for international law."

Sydney-based Yang Hengjun "disappeared" on a previous visit to China in 2011, at a time when he was one of the most influential political bloggers writing in the Chinese language, reaching millions of readers inside mainland China, where information is strictly controlled by a system of filters, blocks, and human censorship known as the Great Firewall.

On that trip, he resurfaced three days later saying only that he had been "unwell."

Yang's U.S.-based friend, artist Wu Zuolai, said the writer has always been a moderate commentator and supporter of the idea of "peaceful evolution" towards democracy for China, a notion that is anathema to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"He would like China to evolve peacefully [towards democracy], starting from within the current system," Wu said. "He takes the line that it should be gradual and peaceful."

The Australian foreign ministry said Wednesday it is "seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment."

Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne left Australia on Tuesday for a week-long visit to Japan, China and Singapore.

Reported by Wong Siu-sam and Tam Siu-Yin for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.





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