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China Says Australian Writer Detained for Endangering State Security

China Says Australian Writer Detained for Endangering State Security

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed that an Australian-Chinese national was detained in China over the weekend.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, asked about Yang's disappearance, told a regular briefing that she had "no understanding" of the situation.

Australia's defense minister said Thursday he will press Chinese officials to treat a Chinese-Australian writer fairly and release all information about his case, days after the man was detained during a visit to his homeland.

He and his wife Yuan Rui Juan were stopped from boarding their connecting flight to Shanghai and interrogated at the airport for 12 hours, friends said. The detention may be a short period like Feng Chongyi encountered, ' he told The Australian.

The 53-year-old has been in "residential detention" in an undisclosed location since flying from NY to Guangzhou on Saturday and, as yet, has not been granted access to consular assistance.

Yang boarded a flight from NY to the southeastern Chinese city of Guangzhou and was scheduled to arrive at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Feng Chongyi, an associate professor in China studies at the University of Technology Sydney, told Bloomberg News earlier on Wednesday.

The recent detentions of a Canadian former diplomat and a Canadian entrepreneur have raised suspicions that Beijing is holding them in retaliation for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou's December 1 arrest, though no link has officially been made between the cases.

The detention of Yang, who has been critical of China, is expected to have a further chilling effect on China's relations with Western countries.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Australian embassy officials in Beijing have held an initial meeting with Chinese authorities to discuss the detention of Australian citizen Yang Hengjun.

A close friend of his has told DW he believes Yang is likely being held in "special detention", known amongst those in the Chinese legal profession as "black jail".

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"And I'll be raising with General Wei this afternoon that very requirement on behalf of the Australian government that he be given access to consular support and that he be treated fairly and transparently", Pyne said.

Yang moved to Australia at the turn of the century and in 2005, wrote his PhD under the mentorship of Professor Feng on the topic of citizen journalism, specifically the struggle between Chinese government control and "netizens". The United States has led a campaign joined by allies such as Australia to ban Huawei from major projects based on national security grounds.

"It only heightens the feeling that visiting China is unsafe and that the security services may increasingly be going after people for what they say outside of China", said longtime China-watcher Bill Bishop.

"It's hard to tell the precise reason for this detention", Medcalf said.

John Garnaut, previously a Chinese correspondent for Australia's Fairfax Media and a senior adviser to former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, warned of the consequences of the arrest for China.

Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have been strained in recent years and Pyne's trip was arranged in a bid to fix ties damaged by Australian accusations in 2017 that China was meddling in its affairs.

"Dr Yang is not only brilliant but extraordinarily popular among the Chinese speaking world".

In the U.S., Yang has been working as a visiting scholar at Columbia University.

The form of detention Yang is under is known as "residential surveillance at a designated location", or RSDL.