China and Australia yesterday clashed over the detention of an Australian-Chinese writer who is held in Beijing on national security grounds -- the latest source of tension between the two countries.
Canberra said it was “deeply disappointed” with the criminal detention of Australian author and democracy advocate Yang Jun, who was detained in January after making a rare return to China from the United States.
Beijing hit back and said it “deplores” the remarks made by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who had also demanded Yang’s release if he was held for his political views.
“China... urges the Australian side not to interfere in China’s lawful handling of the case in any way and stop issuing irresponsible remarks,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing in Beijing.
The detention of the Australian writer, who goes by the pen name Yang Hengjun, has strained relations between the two governments, with Canberra voicing its concern over the lack of transparency around Yang’s case.
Yesterday, Payne said in a strongly-worded statement that the government had raised Yang’s case repeatedly with Beijing and written twice to Foreign Minister Wang Yi requesting a “fair and transparent” resolution, as well as access for Yang to his lawyer.
“This has not occurred,” she said.
“The government has expressed concern about Dr Yang’s welfare and the conditions under which he is held,” she added.
Payne also said she had still not received clarification as to why Yang was being held, though Australia received confirmation yesterday that the writer had been transferred to criminal detention, apparently on national security grounds.