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Australia concerned, disappointed after citizen arrested in China on spying charges

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Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne condemned the formal arrest of Australian writer Yang Hengjun by China on espionage charges. The Australian citizen was first detained in January this year.

"Dr Yang has been held in Beijing in harsh conditions without charge for more than seven months. Since that time, China has not explained the reasons for Dr Yang's detention, nor has it allowed him access to his lawyers or family visits," Marise Payne, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs stated, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Aussie citizen can face extreme penalties due to this, including execution. This may further "complicate" the ties shared by China and Australia.

The detention has been twice discussed with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi by Payne. The Australian leader has also written to Wang three times, highlighting the authority's concerns about the writer's welfare.

"It is important, and we expect, that basic standards of justice and procedural fairness are met. I respectfully reiterate my previous requests that if Dr Yang is being held for his political beliefs, he should be released," she added.

"I will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of Dr Yang to ensure a satisfactory explanation of the basis for his arrest, that he is treated humanely and that he is allowed to return home," she said.

"Australia expects China to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Payne lastly said.

Well-known barrister Julian McMohan has been hired to help with the case. "He is now charged with espionage although the charge sheet doesn't particularise the form of espionage. We believe it will be alleged that he was spying for Australia," the writer's friend told the daily.

The Australian citizen was first detained in January this year. Australian officials have visited the arrested seven times since his detainment. They may visit him again on Tuesday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, August 27 2019. 06:37 IST