Australia

Australian writer Yang Hengjun says he’s ‘stronger than ever’ in new message from detention in China


An Australian writer charged with espionage by China says he feels stronger than ever and has confidence the Chinese court system will deliver him “justice” as he prepares to spend another Christmas behind bars in Beijing. 

Yang Hengjun was detained at Guangzhou Airport in January 2019 following a flight from New York and is facing a lengthy jail sentence after Chinese authorities charged him this year with endangering national security by joining or accepting a mission from an unidentified espionage organisation.

Dr Yang says he has been subjected to torture and hundreds of hours of interrogations during his detention, and was denied outside visitors for eight months this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a heartfelt message on Wednesday, the 55-year-old, who has repeatedly maintained his innocence, told family, friends and supporters not to let their anxieties about his situation affect them.

“As Christmas and New Year approaches, I miss you more and more,” he said.

“After two years, especially with torture, more than 300 interrogations and a lot of verbal abuse, I am now in a place of deeper retrospective and introspective meditation. 

“My life has meaning. Don’t worry about me … I am stronger than ever.”

Reports surfaced this week Dr Yang’s trial, due to begin in January 2021, had been delayed by three months.

Chinese authorities have not specified the espionage charges against Dr Yang, whose wife Yuan Ruijuan has previously told SBS News she was very concerned about his mental state.

However, Dr Yang believes he will be given “justice” and says he still has “some confidence” in the Chinese court system.

“I think they will give me justice,” he said in his message on Wednesday.

“Whether or not they judge me guilty will say a lot about whether the court is governed by rule of law or by pure absolute power.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond to questions from SBS News earlier this week about any developments in Dr Yang’s case, citing privacy obligations.

But the department said it continues to provide him and his family consular support, and DFAT officials last visited him on 17 December.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has previously called for the immediate release of Dr Yang and said there was “no basis” for any allegation he was spying for Australia.

Dr Yang is among several Australians, including TV anchor Cheng Lei, currently detained by Chinese authorities.

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