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Australia shouldn't intervene: China on detained citizen case

Yang Hengjun. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Beijing Aug 27, 2019, 02.37 PM (IST)

Beijing said on Tuesday that Canberra should not "intervene" in China's judicial processes after confirming Australian national Yang Jun had been arrested for alleged espionage.

"I would like to emphasize that China is a country ruled by law and the Australian side should earnestly respect China's judicial sovereignty and must not intervene in any cases handled in China," said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

China's statement comes after an Australian pro-democracy academic held for seven months in China was formally arrested for spying.

Australian Foreign minister Marise Payne had said Tuesday she demanded Beijing uphold "basic standards" of justice.

Payne said she was "very concerned" that Chinese-born Yang Hengjun  - a former official turned author - had been arrested on "suspicion of espionage".

Payne said she was "very concerned" that Chinese-born Yang Hengjun - a former official turned author - had been arrested on "suspicion of espionage".

Yang had been detained after returning to China from the United States in January.

Now in his 50s, he had used popular blog and social media posts to criticise Beijing's authoritarian government. He has a following of more than 125,000 on Twitter alone.

After months without access to his lawyer or family, Yang now faces trial on charges that could bring a lengthy prison sentence.

China's near-silence about Yang's fate has been a point of friction in relations with Australia that have markedly deteriorated in recent months.

In a sharply worded statement, Payne said she had raised the case five times with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, in person and via letters.

"Dr Yang has been held in Beijing in harsh conditions without charge for more than seven months," Payne said, referencing international rules prohibiting torture.

"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."

Story highlights

China's statement comes after an Australian pro-democracy academic held for seven months in China was formally arrested for spying.