‘Closed and Opaque’: Australia Decries Communist China’s Legal Process for Detained Writer Yang Hengjun

May 22, 2021 Updated: May 22, 2021

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has called out the Chinese Communist Party’s lack of transparency regarding an impending closed-door trial of Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun who has been detained in China since January 2019.

She indicated that Beijing has failed to conform to the basic international standards of transparency and independence of the courts, imploring the communist regime to allow Yang legal and consular access prior to his trial on May 27.

“Since his detention, Dr. Yang has had no access to his family, and limited, delayed access to his legal representation,” Payne said in a statement on May 21.

Epoch Times Photo
Foreign Minister Marise Payne along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses media during a press conference in Sydney, Australia on April 27, 2021. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

“We have conveyed to Chinese authorities, in clear terms, the concerns we have about Yang’s treatment and the lack of procedural fairness in how his case has been managed.

“Consistent with basic standards of justice and China’s international legal obligations, we expect Yang to be granted access to his lawyer and to Australian consular officials in advance of his trial,” she said.

Labor’s shadow foreign minister, Senator Penny Wong, has said that the opposition is deeply concerned that the Chinese authorities have failed to provide any explanation or evidence for their charges often laid against political dissidents of the communist regime.

Penny Wong
Australia’s Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Penny Wong speaks to the media along side leader of the opposition, Anthony Albanese, in Melbourne, Australia, on May 18, 2021. (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

“We strongly support the government’s advocacy for Dr. Yang, including through consular assistance, and are disappointed that he has not received basic standards of justice or procedural fairness consistent with China’s international legal obligations,” she said in a statement.

Wong also echoed Payne’s statement that China had obligations under the Australia-China bilateral consular agreement.

Under the agreement, Australian officials are permitted access to Yang’s hearing on May 27. But Payne noted, “This has been a closed and opaque process to date.”

Since Yang’s detention, the 55-year-old blogger has had no contact with his family and limited access to his lawyer.

Epoch Times Photo
In this 2017 photo provided by his family, Yang Hengjun, left, poses with his family member in Beijing. (Yang Family Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is “absolutely untrue” Yang acted as a spy for Australia. Yang, in fact, has told his family that he is innocent of what the regime is alleging and would “never confess to something I haven’t done.”

His trial was due to start in January but has been delayed for four months.

Yang faces a lengthy jail sentence if he is found guilty on charges of allegedly “endangering national security by joining or accepting a mission from an unidentified espionage organisation.”

The author was detained by Chinese authorities in January 2019 at Guangzhou Airport in southern China after arriving from New York.

Australia has consistently lobbied in support of Yang, as well as that of a second detained Australian, journalist Cheng Lei, who has also been held on suspicion of endangering national security.

AAP contributed to this report.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson