A Chinese-Australian novelist and Australian citizen detained in China for “endangering state security” says he is being tortured by the communist regime.
Yang Hengjun, 53, has reportedly been in “residential detention” since he was intercepted by Chinese authorities in Guangzhou while traveling between New York and Shanghai on Jan. 19. He was then transferred to Beijing where he is currently believed to be held in an undisclosed location.
The Australian Consulate has regularly visited Yang since the federal government protested against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) initial refusal to allow consular access to him. A former Chinese diplomat, Yang is known for his writings promoting issues that the regime considers to be sensitive like the democratisation of China, as well as freedom, human rights, and the rule of law and justice.
Yang’s supporters told Australian media that he struggles to walk properly because he was tortured, interrogated, and systematically sleep deprived to force him to make confessions against his will.
University of Technology, Sydney, academic Dr. Feng Chongyi told News Limited that Yang was only allowed to sleep for four hours a night for three days in a row, and he has to sit on a chair from early in the morning until midnight with short breaks every now and then when he is allowed to walk around his windowless room that always has the lights on.
NEW: Dramatic developments in the Yang Hengjun case with supporters believing he has been “tortured”, interrogated & systematically sleep deprived. Supporters say Yang is now having trouble walking. https://t.co/mt0XeLdJ1f
— Primrose Riordan (@primroseriordan) April 24, 2019
Feng said that Yang was being interrogated for several hours each day and is under constant surveillance.
“The torture has taken its toll and the confinement in a room without exposure to sunshine is taking its toll,” Feng said.
Feng also said that Yang was losing weight, limping, and feeling dizzy.
“[Yang] has become weaker when walking.”
Feng said that a doctor has administered an unknown drug for Yang’s blood pressure condition.
“After another consular visit this week, supporters of Mr Yang Hangjun said he is struggling to walk properly and now believe he has been “tortured”, interrogated and systematically sleep deprived.” https://t.co/e5jpPNqvqL
— Frances Eve (@FrancesEveCHRD) April 24, 2019
The allegations come weeks after Yang apologized for not disclosing that the Chinese authorities had previously arrested him in March 2011. In a secret letter that he left with Feng, who he instructed to release if he was detained again, Yang asked supporters to not place themselves at risk to free him but just to continue with his work.
“Maintain belief in China’s democratic future and, when it doesn’t put yourself or your family at risk, to use all your means to push China’s democratic development to happen sooner,” Yang said in the letter that was released online on Jan. 28, just days after he was detained at Guangzhou airport.
The letter’s release sparked fears among some Chinese dissidents and critics of the CCP that Yang may actually be a spy working for the regime, especially because after Yang was released in 2011, he told those who were concerned about him that he had not been detained and his mobile phone was just turned off.
“This has much to do with the Chinese media, because the democracy activists around the world still publish rumours that in 2011 he was not taken away or he actually is a communist spy and went back to China to arrange a new job or got that money to go back again in order to strengthen his position in overseas Chinese secret service,” Feng told The Australian.
Yang defends his decision not to speak about his detention because he would not be able to return to China and keep writing about democratisation using his own money. He called any allegation he was a spy as “lies and fabrications” and he asked his supporters not to believe them.
Feng believes the CCP is trying to ask Yang to sign a written confession that can be used in a lawsuit against him.
“They will usually prepare a long confession for a suspect to sign for a later indictment. If they don’t get the confession, they will keep going with the interrogation,” Feng said.
Yang’s wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, is in Shanghai and is urging the Australian government to do more to help free her husband.
However, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) does not appear to be demanding that the federal government publicly request Yang’s immediate release.
Government sources told News Limited that since the secretive Chinese Ministry of State Security is involved, DFAT feels it would be better to keep the discussions behind closed doors.
Feng believes this is a false view as public pressure is more likely to ensure Yang’s speedy release.
“The Australian government must make a strong statement to protect its citizens against torture and (against) the political persecution of an innocent Australian citizen and demand his immediate release,” he said.
Australian writer Yang Hangjun tortured in Chinese custody say his supporters. What is the Australian govt doing to secure his release? https://t.co/pLg8UBjBTq
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) April 25, 2019
The Ministry of State Security rejected Yang’s second bail application on April 16, including a request for the accused to serve out his time at home, according to News Limited.
Lawyer Mo Shaoping, who is known for handling sensitive cases, has been chosen by Yang’s family members to work oh his case, but Mo has yet to be allowed to meet Yang in-person.