Tuesday, March 29, 2011

China detains Aussie activist By Michael Sainsbury and Zhang Yufei

 CANBERRA has been kept in the dark on the whereabouts of Australian Yang Hengjun, who has been caught up in the biggest crackdown against democracy activists by Chinese authorities since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Yang Hengjun. Photo: Tanya Lake

 Dr Yang, an author and internet activist, was detained at Guangzhou airport in southern China on Sunday, according to friends who spoke to The Australian.
 He was on his way to a pro-democracy conference in Beijing where he was planning to speak.
 The conference was shut down by authorities.
 "The Australian government is concerned by reports that an Australian citizen, Yang Hengjun, disappeared in Guangzhou on Sunday, 27 March, 2011," a Foreign Affairs Department spokesperson said.
 The Australian consul-general in Guangzhou is urgently seeking to confirm Dr Yang's whereabouts and wellbeing and offer assistance.
 Consular officers in Canberra have contacted Dr Yang's family in Australia.
 A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she "did not know of the case".
 Under Australia's consular agreement, Chinese authorities must advise Australia within three days if any citizens have been detained.
 Mr Yang's detention brings to 39 the number of Australians detained in prison by China.
 Three other Australians have been detained there in the past month.
 Mr Yang is one of more than 100 writers, lawyers and other activists who have been detained by authorities concerned that Middle Eastern revolutions do not spread to China.
 The Australian government yesterday spoke out for the first time against the fresh round of repression by Chinese authorities.
 "We urge China to protect the rights of its citizens to criticise the government, as recognised in Article 41 of the Chinese Constitution," the foreign affairs spokesperson said.
 Dr Yang was born in central China's Hubei province in 1965 and studied for a degree at Fudan University before moving to Australia, where he gained a masters in literature from the University of NSW and a PhD from the University of Technology, Sydney.
 He worked for China's foreign affairs department and in business before eventually settling back in Sydney, where he has divided his time between there and Guangzhou.
 He has a wife and two sons understood to be in Sydney.
 Since 2008, Dr Yang has written increasingly critical essays on the internet about China's need to embrace democracy.


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