Tue, Jul 09, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Writer’s wife being kept in China

AUSTRALIAN RESIDENT:A lawyer said that Australia had abrogated its responsibility to Yuan Ruijuan, an Australian resident, by failing to persuade China to let her depart

AP, CANBERRA

A detained Chinese-Australian writer’s wife has been refused permission to leave China six months after her husband was taken into custody, their lawyer said yesterday.

Yang Hengjun (楊恆均), a 53-year-old visiting academic at Columbia University in New York and a former Chinese diplomat, has been detained since Jan. 19, when he arrived at China’s Guangzhou Airport with his wife, Yuan Ruijuan (袁瑞娟) — who is commonly referred to by her pen name, Yuan Xiaoliang (袁小靚) — and his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

Yuan, an Australian resident, had been prevented from flying to Australia from Beijing airport on Thursday last week, Australian lawyer Rob Stary said.

“There’s an exit ban on her leaving. She was escorted to a hotel and interrogated for a couple of hours, but is not formally in detention,” Stary said.

“We don’t know what the nature of the interrogation was; we assume it’s in relation to her husband, who has been described as a democracy activist and journalist,” Stary said.

China in January said that Yang had been detained for allegedly “endangering China’s national security,” a charge frequently leveled at critics of the Chinese Communist Party.

Yuan and her daughter have been living with relatives in China since he was detained.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne yesterday released a statement on Yang’s case, but did not comment on his wife’s plight.

“The Australian government has raised Dr Yang’s case regularly with China at senior levels,” Payne said. “We have requested his case be treated fairly, transparently and expeditiously.”

Australia continued to have consular access and had asked that Yang be granted immediate access to his Chinese lawyers, Payne said.

“Australia has asked for clarification regarding the reasons for his detention and we have said that if he is being detained purely for his political views, then he should be released,” she said.

Stary said Australia should be doing more to get Yuan and her child out of China, despite them being Chinese and not Australian citizens.

Yang’s six-month detention order expires on July 27. He could then be charged, which could “make her capacity to travel even more restrictive,” Stary said.

“She’s completely the innocent party. Her movements have been curtailed really because of her relationship with her husband,” Stary said.

Stary described as “curious” Australia’s quick success in getting North Korea to release Australian Alek Sigley last week after Sigley was accused of spying while in Pyongyang.

Australia had abrogated its responsibility to an Australian resident by failing to persuade China to let Yuan leave after six months, Stary said.

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