Yang Hengjun, a former employee at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who became an Australian citizen in the early 2000s and began a career writing English spy novels, was detained in January shortly after landing in Guangzhou with his family. Yang was then held for six months under “residential surveillance at a designated location.” In July, Yang was moved to a Beijing detention facility, and in August was formally arrested on espionage charges. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in August that allegations that Yang was a spy were “completely untrue.” At The Guardian, Ben Doherty and Lily Kuo cite multiple sources claiming that Yang could face the death penalty, and describe his treatment in detention:
Yang, a former Chinese government diplomat-turned-“democracy pedlar” who ran a popular and influential blog, has not been allowed access to a lawyer, and has not been permitted to speak with his family. He has received no letters, but has been given two Xi Jinping books.
[…] He shares his cell with two other prisoners. The lights are on in the cell at all times.
Yang is taken from his cell once a week for interrogation, for up to four hours at a time. His hands and feet are shackled with heavy chains during questioning.
Investigators from the ministry of state security have reportedly told him he is shackled because of the seriousness of the crimes he is alleged to have committed. He has been told he potentially faces the death penalty.
[…] “What we are doing now is still asking for meeting him. If the lawyers cannot meet him, we cannot understand the case. You have to meet him before you can do the defence work,” he [Yang’s lawyer Mo Shaoping] said. […] [Source]
Following The Guardian’s report on Yang’s treatment, SBS News relays fears over Yang’s health from a family friend:
“His health condition is not good as a result of seven months of solitude from being under house arrest without access to any other people but interrogators,” the friend said.
“He suffers from weakened memory, blood pressure and kidney issues. But he has not collapsed and continues to insist his innocence.”
[…] The friend said Dr Yang is not being held in solitary confinement.
“He doesn’t have to live in total loneliness. He is allowed to walk out of the cell twice a day in the morning and the afternoon, each time for 45 minutes,” he told the Australian. […] [Source]
At The Australian, Ben Packham reports that Cheng Jingye, China’s ambassador to Australia, has assured Canberra that Yang will get a fair trial. Packham’s report continues to describe the differing concept of “rule of law” in China:
“We have rule of law. We have a strong rule of law,” he said.
However, the Chinese concept of rule of law differs greatly from that in Western countries because the judiciary is not independent of the Chinese Communist Party.
Yang’s former PhD supervisor at the University of Technology Sydney, Feng Chongyi, said the party was a higher authority than the courts and could make laws that were a violation of human rights.
“They have a completely different ideology, a very toxic ideology — at least at the official level,” Professor Feng said. [Source]