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Australian pro-democracy writer imprisoned in China since 2019 says he’s being ‘tortured’

  • Dr. Yang Hengjun, 56, was arrested after arriving at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in 2019 during a trip to China with his wife and child. Yang has been in jail since then.

  • He was scheduled to be sentenced in October 2021 after a one-day closed-court hearing in May 2021. However, his sentencing was reportedly rescheduled to January 2022, then pushed further to April 9, 2022.

  • Yang’s supporters voiced their concern over the Australian writer’s deteriorating health. He is reportedly suffering from gout, high uric acid and high blood pressure, among other complications.

Supporters of Dr. Yang Hengjun, the Australian writer detained three years ago on espionage charges in China, have called on Beijing to release the democracy activist on bail since his health has been deteriorating inside a Chinese prison.

A close friend and supporter of Yang, 56, shared that his family and friends “are concerned Yang is being systematically deprived of proper medical treatment” while imprisoned, according to The Guardian. He also added that Yang should not be left to die in jail, much like what has happened to other artists such as Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Yang reportedly has severe problems with gout, high uric acid, high blood pressure and impaired vision. An account from late 2021 also revealed the activist has been suffering from dizzy spells and ongoing fatigue. Yang’s blood test results also showed rising creatinine levels in his body, thus increasing his chances of kidney failure.

We are very concerned that Yang’s detention has exacerbated his medical problems and that the treatment in prison is inadequate,” Australia Director at Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson said. “The Chinese government should release him unconditionally immediately.”

Yang traveled to China along with his wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, and their child to visit friends and family in 2019, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The Australian pro-democracy writer was arrested at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and has been in detention since.

The Australian activist is facing espionage charges, which he and the Australian government denied. Yang, who has called himself a “democracy peddler,” expressed “no regrets” in his message released on Monday.

I feel no regrets about being arrested,” he said. “The value and ideal of promoting, popularizing, and practicing law, fairness and justice, social justice, freedom, and democracy are my original aspiration and my Chinese dream.”

Yang’s closed-court hearing was held for one day in May 2021. He was supposed to be sentenced in October of that year, but his sentencing was moved to this month, then pushed further to April 9. Yang reportedly “faces a sentence ranging from three years to death under national security charges.”

I’m confident I didn’t do what they said I did,” Yang declared. “I know this, my lawyer knows this, and I think the judge knows this. According to Chinese law, I’m not guilty. But they treat me like dirt here and they tortured me.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese judicial system said that Yang’s case is being handled “strictly in accordance with law” and that his “lawful rights” are being wholly protected. The spokesperson also noted that “The Australian side should respect China’s judicial sovereignty and refrain from interfering in any form in Chinese judicial authorities’ lawful handling of the case.”

Yang challenged Beijing in his most recent message from prison to open, publish and provide details about his case to the world. “We should apply to open the case, and you can see for yourself,” he said, “They said it’s about espionage. I hope it’s just about Chinese judicial corruption.”

In a recent statement, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, called on Beijing for the immediate release of Yang and advocated for the writer’s well-being.

Australia is also extremely concerned about Dr Yang’s health,” she said. “We call on Chinese authorities to meet their obligations to ensure that all necessary treatment for his physical and mental health is provided.”

Born in China’s Hubei Province, Yang formerly worked as a diplomat for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a state security agent. He then moved to Hong Kong to work in the private sector before living in Australia and the United States. He became an Australian citizen in 2002.

Featured Image via ABC News (Australia)

 

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