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Yang Hengjun: Australian writer held in China ‘will fight to the end’

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image copyrightYANG HENGJUN/TWITTER

image captionYang Hengjun is a popular blogger and former Chinese diplomat

An Australian writer who has been detained in China for 19 months says he will “never confess” to allegations of espionage.

Yang Hengjun was arrested at Guangzhou airport in January last year and later accused of spying – charges denied by him and the Australian government.

Australian officials have previously said Dr Yang has faced daily questioning in shackles, but no trial.

He denied Chinese reports he had made a confession, Australian media reported.

“I am innocent and will fight to the end,” he said in a message passed on by relatives.

“I will never confess to something I haven’t done.”

Last year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the allegations “absolutely untrue” and said officials had lobbied China for his release.

China’s foreign ministry has told Australia to not interfere in the case, and to respect the nation’s “judicial sovereignty”.

Mr Yang is a former Chinese diplomat who became a scholar and novelist. He gained Australian citizenship in 2002 but was most recently based in New York.

Nicknamed “the democracy peddler”, Dr Yang maintained a blog on the country’s current affairs and international relations, but he had not been directly critical of Chinese authorities in recent years.

image copyrightREUTERS

image captionYang Hengjun has blogged about political issues in China

He travelled to China last year with his wife Yuan Ruijuan and her child, but was separated from them at the airport.

Beijing has held him for alleged “involvement in criminal activities endangering China’s national security”. Australia has called for clarification of the charges.

Earlier this week, Dr Yang was permitted to see his lawyer for the first time, Australian media reported.

“I had not heard from him for so long – I wondered whether he was still with us,” Ms Yuan told the Special Broadcasting Service.

“The lawyer’s confirmation of the meeting has given me some comfort but the situation is not good. I do not know a lot – there is a lot the lawyers are not permitted to tell me.”

Dr Yang’s supporters have said they are concerned for his mental health.

His friend and fellow scholar, Feng Chongyi, previously told the BBC that Australia should “pull out all the stops” to secure his release.

Last month another Australian, TV presenter

Cheng Lei, was taken into secret detention

in China. The reason was not yet clear, Australian officials said this week.

Relations between the two countries have soured since Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

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