Australia says writer held for espionage in China vulnerable to COVID-19

Sydney, Australia, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- Australia on Wednesday said that its citizen and writer Yang Hengjun, detained in China for more than two years on accusations of espionage, is vulnerable to COVID-19 due to poor health and urged his release once again.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne in a statement urged China to allow its consular officials to contact Yang by telephone or correspondence amid the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Payne said that the Chinese authorities had denied any kind of contact with the activist and said that Yang had last consular visit on Dec. 30, 2019.

“This is unacceptable treatment of an Australian citizen,” she added.

Payne also said that Yang – who was arrested in Guangzhou in January 2018 on a stopover from the United States to Australia – has had no access to legal representation and “has been held in harsh conditions that have been detrimental to his physical and mental health.”

“We call for Dr Yang’s immediate release and that he be allowed to leave China and travel to Australia with his wife,” Payne added.

The legal defense of Yang, a blogger and activist in favor of democracy in China, denounced that the authorities were subjecting him to mistreatment to coerce him to confess to charges of espionage, which is punishable by death.

A recent report by the Australian broadcaster ABC indicated that Yang had worked as a Chinese spy for 14 years and his detention in the Asian country was linked to having turned his back on Beijing to become a pro-democracy activist.

Yang, who was a visiting scholar at Columbia University and lived with his family in New York, could face between three years of imprisonment and the death penalty if found guilty of espionage in China, a country with an opaque judicial system.

China has a long history of arresting dissidents, some of them while they are residing abroad, to later charge them with various crimes. efe-epa


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