Sino-Australian Political Blogger Vanishes; Another Blogger Charged with Subversion (Updated)

Influential Australia-based blogger Yang Hengjun has not been heard from since soon after he arrived in Guangzhou, the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Yang Hengjun, who retired from the Chinese Foreign Ministry to become a Sydney-based spy novelist, intellectual and blogger, has not been seen since phoning a colleague from Guangzhou airport on Sunday with news that he was being followed by three men.

If Dr Yang does not promptly reappear, then his name will be added to the list of challenges facing Julia Gillard when she arrives in Beijing next month for her first visit as prime minister.

Mr Yang is understood to carry an Australian passport. Others on her list of Chinese-Australians who have fallen foul of China’s capricious justice system include Matthew Ng, a successful entrepreneurs in China, and the iron ore salesman Stern Hu.

Read more by and about Yang Hengjun via CDT.

Ran Yunfei, another popular blogger and critic of the government, has been charged with subversion
in Sichuan. From VOA:

Ran’s wife told VOA’s Mandarin service she received a copy of the formal charging documents Monday, and says they were dated last Friday. She said she will move quickly to hire a lawyer to defend her spouse, and expects formal court proceedings within two months.

Analysts say the formal charges allow police to continue their detention of the activist, while moving him closer to a criminal trial.

Ran, a 46-year-old writer, magazine editor and blogger from southwestern Sichuan province, has been an online presence in China for more than a decade. He was arrested five weeks ago in Chengdu, as police in Beijing and Shanghai moved to squelch protests called for by unidentified activists in Internet postings.

UPDATE: Yang Hengjun’s sister reportedly received a call from him in which he indicated that he had been taken by secret police. The Australian government has asked Beijing for information about his disappearance. From the Washington Post:

The Sydney-based spy novelist phoned an assistant Sunday from Guangzhou airport in southeastern China to say three men were following him, said his friend Feng Chongyi, Associate Professor in China Studies at the University of Technology in Sydney.

Yang was later able to briefly phone a sister in Guangzhou to say “he’s having a long chat with his old friends,” Feng said. This was a prearranged signal that Yang had been taken by the secret police, Feng said.

“I’m 100 percent sure that he was been taken away by the secret police,” said Feng, adding that the current crackdown on political expression in China was the reason.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the disappearance.

In the Age, John Garnaut profiles Yang Hengjun and his work:

He watched how civil society and democracy worked in the West and wrote about how they could in China. ”The true wonder of America and other Western countries is that all their flaws and ills come from the facts that are exposed by their people and even the government itself,” he wrote.

Yang is a former Chinese diplomat and his classmates from Fudan University’s department of international relations are now spread through the bureaucracy and business. His most important teacher was Wang Huning, who now accompanies President Hu Jintao on every overseas trip.

These connections provided endless fodder for his fiction and sources for his views. And they partly explain the miracle of how he has been allowed to survive so long and attract the phenomenal following that he has on the Chinese-language internet.

Yang also stood at the centre of a network of writers, intellectuals and activists.

The China Human Rights Lawyer Concern Group gives a rundown of all the lawyers who have been detained or harassed in recent weeks.