Writer Yang Hengjun arrested in Beijing

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Yang Hengjun, on trial on espionage charges, which he denies. (File)

Sydney:

An Australian writer jailed in Beijing on espionage charges told readers in a Christmas message from prison that 300 interrogations had failed to produce evidence of “pursuing democracy, the rule of law and freedom”.

Democracy-friendly blogger Yang Hengjun, who is on trial on espionage charges, which he denies, has not received visits from his wife or family since his arrest in January 2019 after arriving at Guangzhou Airport in New York.

Yang said in his message that after “torture, more than 300 interrogations and much verbal abuse, I am now in a place of deeper retrospective and introspective meditation,” said his former teacher Feng Chongyi, who lives in Sydney.

Feng also confirmed the authenticity of the message to Reuters.

Yang, 55, announced in a 2011 letter to Feng that he had previously worked for the Chinese State Security Bureau in Hong Kong and Washington for a decade and left the service before moving to Australia in 1999.

He later wrote spy novels published in Taiwan and garnered a large online following in China as a democracy blogger before moving to New York.

He had denied having disclosed state secrets in his novels during an earlier brief detention in 2011 on suspicion of participating in the democracy protests of the Jasmine Revolution.

Australian diplomats visited Yang on December 17, one of the few visits the Chinese authorities allowed this year.

Yang’s trial, which was supposed to continue through January, has been postponed for three months.

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In the message, Yang said he was “waiting for the court” and still had “some confidence in the court.”

“Whether or not they find me guilty will say a lot about whether the court is ruled by the rule of law or by sheer absolute power,” he said on the message.

“I have great faith in humanity, in justice, justice and God.”

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last year that it was “absolutely wrong” that Yang acted as a spy for Australia.

Australian Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said in October that Yang’s treatment in detention with no family visits and limited legal representation was inconsistent with international standards.

Diplomatic relations between key trading partners Australia and China have deteriorated this year after Canberra requested an international investigation into the causes of the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing imposed a series of trade reprisals.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)

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