Australian blogger Yang Hengjun, also known as Yang Jun, is being held in pretrial detention on espionage charges. Guangzhou police arrested Yang, a former Chinese diplomat turned blogger and political commentator, on January 19, 2019.
Yang frequently posted commentary on Twitter and Weibo about U.S.-China relations, espionage, and political reform. In 2011, CPJ reported that Yang disappeared in Guangzhou for several days and was suspected of having been detained by police. Yang later called that disappearance a “misunderstanding,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Police detained Yang on January 19, 2019, at the Guangzhou airport, according to news reports. Authorities gave no explanation for his detention until August 27, when Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters that the National Security Bureau in Beijing had formally arrested Yang on espionage charges, according to the state-run newspaper People’s Daily and CNN.
Yang’s lawyers met with him at a detention center in Beijing on September 3, 2020, according to news reports. He maintained his innocence and said he faced hours-long interrogations every day while being handcuffed, according to those reports, which cited his lawyers and Australian officials.
On October 12, 2020, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian announced at a press conference that the Beijing No.2 People’s Procuratorate had indicted Yang on espionage charges on October 7, and that his trial was ongoing.
According to Reuters, Yang worked for the Chinese Ministry of State Security from 1989 to 1999 as a spy in Hong Kong and Washington before moving to Australia and becoming a pro-democracy blogger.
CPJ was unable to determine Yang’s state of health in late 2020.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent through its website in late 2020. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond to an email from CPJ requesting comment in late 2020.