China: Wife of Australian writer blocked from leaving Beijing

The wife of a detained Chinese-Australian writer has been interrogated by Chinese officials and denied from leaving China. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Chinese authorities to respect individual’s rights and requests the Australian government to do more on the case.

Yuan Xiaoliang (left) with her husband Yang Hengjun (right). Source: ABC.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Yuan Xiaoliang, the wife of a former Chinese government official and turned author, Yang Hengjun, was taken by a group of Chinese Ministry of State Security officers on the morning of July 7. Ms Yuan had been preparing to speak to the broadcaster before scheduled plans to leave the country when she was detained. She was reportedly questioned for two hours and denied from leaving the country.

Earlier this year Ms Yuan’s husband, Yang Hengjun, was reported missing during a visit to China as he attempted to board a flight from Guanzhou to Shanghai on January 19. He has since been held for nearly six months without access to a lawyer. According to the ABC, Mr Yang had previously criticized the Chinese regime and pointed this to be the reason for his detainment.

Yang Hengjun is allegedly being held on “suspicion of endangering national security” and is understood to be held in “residential detention”, though his location, health and circumstances remain unknown.

Ms Yuan has repeatedly urged the Australian government to pay more attention to the rights of its citizens. The writer’s wife had been hiding in a village fearing government retaliation and was scheduled to speak to the ABC the day she was detained. Her lawyer Rob Stary called on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs for assistance, but said officials declined to provide consular assistance on the basis that she was Australian permanent resident, not a citizen. Ms Yuan is apparently now safe.

On April 9, the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) sent a letter to the Chinese embassy and to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, raising concerns that Yang was being deprived of his human rights, without trial or access to legal counsel, as well as being denied access to his family. MEAA said Mr Yang is a journalist member and “respected author and online journalist and blogger.”

MEAA said: “His interrogation and secret detention, casts a shadow over the working relationship of Australian journalists in China and calls into question their being able to perform their journalistic duties in safety and without harassment or intimidation from authorities.”

The IFJ said: “Yuan Xiaoliang’s denial to leave China and her husband, Yang Hengjun’s ongoing detention without charge is a serious violation of human rights and the longer it continues will create pressure for the Chinese authorities and China's image abroad. Ms Yuan has also tried in desperation to speak to the media about her concerns for her husband and the lack of action by Australian authorities on the matter. We strongly urge the Australian government to exercise every effort to secure the release of the couple back to Australia.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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