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China faces pressure over writer detention

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says a Chinese-Australian writer should be immediately released if China has detained him for his political views.

The Australian government has confirmed the transfer of Chinese-Australian writer and former diplomat Yang Hengjun to criminal detention.

But Senator Payne is still seeking clarification over the reasons for his detention.

“If he is being detained for his political views, then he should be released,” she says.

The Chinese-born fiction writer, pro-democracy campaigner and former diplomat was being held in Guangzhou after arriving from the US in January.

The 53-year-old, who has held Australian citizenship since 2002 and has a doctorate from the University of Technology Sydney, was living in New York as a visiting scholar at Columbia University.

Australian officials have visited Dr Yang in detention six times, most recently on June 27.

But Senator Payne said despite writing twice to her Chinese counterpart asking for a fair and transparent resolution and for Dr Yang to be allowed to see his lawyers, that had not happened.

“We expect basic standards of justice and procedural fairness to be met.”

Friends and family of Dr Yang expect him to be charged with endangering state security.

His Australian lawyer Rob Stary said a political intervention was the only likely means by which to resolve the issue.

He says Australia should use its special relationship with China to secure Dr Yang’s release.

Dr Yang’s wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, who is a permanent resident of Australia, has been banned from leaving China.

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