On January 12, Yang was formally charged of “inciting subversion of state power” after being placed under detention for 37 days, according to a notice of arrest issued by the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Office. The writer is currently in custody at a detention center in Guangzhou city in Guangdong Province.
The 55-year-old attempted to travel from China to the United States in 2021 twice to visit his wife Zhang Qing, who was suffering from deteriorating health from cancer, but he was stopped by the law enforcement at the airport.
Yang was detained in January 2021 when he attempted to board a plane bound for the U.S. from Shanghai. In December 2021, Yang was taken away by the authorities at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport as he tried for the second time to travel to the U.S. and was detained.
Zhang died on January 10, 2022 without seeing her husband for the last time. The charge against Yang will bar him from grieving the passing of his wife and being reunited with his two children in the United States.
Over the years, Yang has actively participated in campaigns for freedom of expression in China despite persistent harassments by the authorities. He was jailed for five years from 2006 over the charge of "illegal business activity" in relation to the publication of his book “Shenyang Political Earthquake,” in which he investigated a political scandal in Liaoning province.
Yang was imprisoned again from 2013 to 2019 over “gathering crowds to disturb social order” after holding rallies against the authorities that were accused of censoring a local newspaper, as well as calling for support of press freedom. He was reportedly subject to forms of torture in prison, including being beaten by electric batons.
The IFJ said, “The arrest of Yang illustrates the ongoing government crackdown on freedom of speech in China in the leadup to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. The IFJ reminds the authorities that freedom of speech and freedom of the press in China are enshrined under Article 35 of China’s Constitution. The IFJ strongly protests against the arbitrary charge against Yang and calls for his immediate release”