China arrests Australian writer on spying charges

Canberra/Beijing: An Australian writer of Chinese origin has been arrested on suspicion of espionage in China, where he has been detained since the beginning of the year, officials said on Tuesday.

Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese Foreign Ministry official, was detained in Guangzhou in January during a stopover on his way to Australia and had since been held without any charge.

"The government is very concerned and disappointed to learn that Australian citizen and academic Dr Yang Hengjun (Dr Yang Jun) was formally arrested in China on suspicion of espionage on August 23," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement cited by Efe news.

"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," Payne said.

The Foreign Minister said she had discussed the issue twice with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and had also written to him three times to express her concern about the health and well-being of the 53-year-old academic and pro-democracy activist.

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