SYDNEY, Australia – An Australian writer and businessman is expected to stand trial in Beijing next week on a charge of espionage, which has sparked one of the disputes between China and Australia over icy antagonism.
The trial of businessman Yang Hengjun will take place on Thursday, more than two years after he was detained in China in early 2019, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said. said in a statement.
“Despite repeated requests by Australian officials, Chinese authorities have not provided any explanation or evidence for the charges facing Dr. Yang,” she said. Payne said in the statement issued Friday. “We have conveyed the concerns about Dr. Yang’s treatment and the lack of procedural fairness in handling his case to Chinese authorities, in clear terms.”
Despite the Australian government’s request to send diplomats to observe the trial, Yang is likely to be tried in secret, said Feng Chongyi, a professor in Sydney, Australia. The friend and former academic advisor of Yang. He said the family of Yang, who had been notified by the Chinese authorities at the court date, said the trial would be held in Beijing.
“They name the national security issues to restrict access,” Professor Feng said. “It does not give the lawyers much time to apply to see or prepare him.”
Given how rarely Chinese courts have found accused innocent, Yang, 56, who was born in China, was almost certainly convicted and sentenced. He dismissed the charge as false. Mr. Yang’s lawyers did not respond to calls.
“I am innocent and will fight to the end,” he said. Yang said in a message in September from his detention center in Beijing which was handed over to his family and supporters, including Professor Feng, who confirmed its receipt. “I will never admit anything I did not do,” he said. Yang added.
He is one of four high-profile prisoners in China whose treatment has heightened tensions between Beijing and Western countries. Their supporters and human rights activists have accused China of using them as pawns in diplomatic disputes.
Two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – are in custody pending court rulings after standing trial in March on suspicion of spying. Their supporters and the Canadian Premier, Justin Trudeau, said their arrests in 2018 were retaliation for the detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese chief telecommunications chief who is facing extradition to the United States on charges of bank fraud related to transactions with Iran.
In August, Chinese investigators arrested Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen born in China who worked as an anchor for China’s international television network. The Chinese Foreign Ministry later said that Ms. Cheng is suspected of crimes against national security, nefarious crimes that may include espionage, the illegal acquisition or supply of state secrets or the undermining of the Communist Party
Mr. Yang is facing a time when Australia’s relations with China are low. Australia’s economic fortune remains closely linked to China, with its appetite for the country’s iron ore, farm products and other resources. But the results of public opinion released by the Pew Research Center in October showed that unfavorable opinions about China had jumped in Australia, even more than in the United States and other Western countries.
The share of Australian respondents with a negative view of China grew by 24 percentage points in 2020 compared to a year earlier, with 81 per cent saying they now see China unfavorably.
Beijing has accused the Australian government of becoming unfounded over Chinese interference in Australian politics, and China said in September that Australian security and police forces had several months before. hit the houses of four Chinese journalists in Australia.
Mr. Yang flew from New York to Guangzhou in southern China in early 2019, picking up warnings from friends that China’s increasingly icy political environment was threatening to arrest him. He was detained shortly after his arrival, and his case became entangled with the sour ties between China and Australia, his adopted homeland.
The Australian government has rejected suggestions that Yang was one of his agents. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last year that ‘these proposals that he acted as a spy for Australia are absolutely untrue.’ On a question about mr. Yang’s impending trial, Mr. Morrison said, “There has to be a fair and just process,” Reuters reported.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has rejected suggestions that Yang was abused in custody. “There is no such ‘torture’ or ‘abuse’,” said Zhao Lijian, a ministry spokesman. said during a regular newsletter in Beijing last year.
It seems unlikely that diplomatic pleas from Australia will confirm the conviction of Mr. Yang and a possible jail sentence will save.
He has traveled for years under China, Australia and the United States, playing roles as a businessman and an online commentator. Mr. Yang obtained Australian citizenship about 20 years ago and was briefly detained in China in 2011, although he later said it was a ‘misunderstanding’.
While Yang devised the draconian policies of the Chinese Communist Party and demanded political relaxation in China, Yang did not openly challenge the party and continued to cultivate a large online readership through his blog and social media posts. in China. He often asked for more room for public debate.
“China and the Chinese government must have critics,” he said. wrote in 2015. “A country that has no opposing voices – no matter how special – can never be much stronger than North Korea.”