Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne yesterday said the treatment of a writer detained in China was “unacceptable,” as his lawyer reported he was being shackled and subjected to daily interrogation.
China-born Australian citizen Yang Hengjun (楊恆均) has been detained since January and was recently charged with espionage, which could bring a lengthy prison sentence.
In an unusually frank statement, Payne said she was “very concerned by reports from a recent consular visit” that claimed Yang had been isolated from the outside world and interrogated while restrained.
“This is unacceptable,” she said, adding that repeated requests had been made for Yang to get “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment.”
The consular visit revealed Yang was undergoing repetitive daily interrogations and being “shackled by the hands and feet,” his lawyer Sarah Condon said.
Letters were also being withheld “to cut off the conduit of information from Dr Yang to the outside world, and from the outside world to Dr Yang,” she said.
Condon said Yang had been in good health before his detention, but had since been told that he was suffering from high blood pressure and “serious” kidney problems.
“He is being provided a number of unknown and unspecified substances, up to nine tablets daily,” she added.
However, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday denied the allegations of torture, describing Yang’s health condition as “good.”
“There is no problem of so-called torture or cruelty,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied that Yang — one of a string of foreign nationals recently arrested in China — was a spy.
Beijing’s near-silence about Yang’s fate has been a point of friction in relations with Australia.
He was taken into custody upon arriving in Guangzhou from New York City with his wife, Yuan Xiaoliang (袁小靚), and his 14-year-old stepdaughter. He had initially been held in “residential surveillance at a designated location” before being moved to criminal detention in August.
Yang reportedly once worked in the foreign ministry in Hainan Province — although this has been denied by Beijing.
Additional reporting by AP
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