The Government is very concerned and disappointed to learn that Australian citizen and academic Dr Yang Hengjun (Dr Yang Jun) was formally arrested in China on suspicion of espionage on 23 August and will continue to be criminally detained. Our thoughts are with Dr Yang and his family at this very difficult time.
Dr Yang has been held in Beijing in harsh conditions without charge for more than seven months. Since that time, China has not explained the reasons for Dr Yang’s detention, nor has it allowed him access to his lawyers or family visits.
I have discussed this twice with China’s Foreign Minister, State Councilor Wang Yi, and have written to him three times, stating my concerns, and those of the Australian government and people. We have serious concerns for Dr Yang’s welfare, and about the conditions under which he is being held. We have expressed these in clear terms to the Chinese authorities.
It is important, and we expect, that basic standards of justice and procedural fairness are met. I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released.
We expect Dr Yang to be treated in accordance with international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with special attention to those provisions that prohibit torture and inhumane treatment, guard against arbitrary detention and that protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Australian Embassy officials have visited Dr Yang seven times since his detention, most recently on 25 July, in accordance with our Bilateral Consular Agreement with China. We expect this to continue for the duration of Dr Yang’s detention, and have a visit approved for today, Tuesday 27 August.
I will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of Dr Yang to ensure a satisfactory explanation of the basis for his arrest, that he is treated humanely and that he is allowed to return home.