Yang Hengjun

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Australian blogger Yang Hengjun, also known as Yang Jun, is being held in China on espionage charges. Guangzhou police arrested Yang, a former Chinese diplomat turned blogger and political commentator, on January 19, 2019. He was tried in 2021 but no verdict has been publicized.

Yang frequently posted commentary on Twitter, which later changed its name to X, and Weibo about U.S.-China relations, espionage, and political reform. 

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, which cited his lawyers and Australian officials. He maintained his innocence and said he faced hours-long interrogations every day while being handcuffed. 

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 told a former teacher in a 2011 letter that he had worked for the Chinese Ministry of State Security from 1989 to 1999 and had been a spy in Hong Kong and Washington before moving to Australia and becoming a pro-democracy blogger.

On May 27, 2021, a court in Beijing tried Yang in a closed-door proceeding and denied entry to Australian Ambassador Graham Fletcher, according to news reports. The verdict was not made public. A year later, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong released a statement expressing concerns over the delay announcing the result of the trial. 

In August 2023, Australian newspaper The Australian Financial Review reported that a cyst was found on Yang’s kidney.

As of late 2023, CPJ’s email to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking new information on Yang’s case did not receive any response.