SINGAPORE (Reuters) – There is no proof that Beijing’s detention of a Chinese-born Australian writer is related to the arrest of Canadians in China, Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said on Monday.
Yang Hengjun was detained in southern China earlier this month and taken to Beijing where China has said he was held under “coercive measures”, a euphemism for detention, as he is being investigated on suspicion of “endangering state security”.
“In terms of the detention of Mr. Yang, I don’t see any evidence that the detention of Mr. Yang is linked to decisions made by the Australian government in recent times. Nor do I see it being linked to the detention of the two Canadians, Pyne told a security forum in Singapore.
Pyne held talks in Beijing last week aimed at repairing ties with Australia’s largest trading partner that have been strained since 2017, when it accused China of meddling in its affairs.
Pyne said he had spoken to Chinese authorities during his trip to “ensure that he (Yang) has been well cared for, treated fairly and transparently”.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks between China and some Western countries after two Canadians, a diplomat on unpaid leave and a consultant, were arrested in China on suspicion of endangering state security.
Australia joined international condemnation of the arrest of the Canadians, but Yang has long been in the sights of Chinese authorities. He has criticised what he described as Chinese interference in Australia.
Yang’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told Reuters that his client was suspected of “espionage”, and was being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location.”
Reporting by Fathin Ungku; writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry