Australia questions China over missing dissident author

The Australian government is seeking information from Beijing over the location of a citizen believed to be a Chinese-Australian author who has reportedly been missing since entering China five days ago, officials said Wednesday.

Yang Hengjun is a former Chinese diplomat who has become an Australian citizen and is now an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party.

Read more: Analyst: China has to be put in the category of a 'rogue state'

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement it was "seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment."

Possible retaliation

Dr Feng Chongyi, Yang's PhD supervisor at the University of Technology Sydney, said he believes Yang "must have been detained by the Ministry of State Security" at Guangzhou airport, reported Australian public broadcaster SBS.

Read more: China blocks access to Australian state broadcaster ABC

Feng told SBS that he believes Yang's disappearance was a response to Australia's criticism of China's decision to detain Canadian citizens.

"[The] Australian government made an announcement on the detention of a few Canadian citizens, demanding their release. In my opinion, Yang's disappearance is related to that," Feng said, who has also been in touch with Yang's family.

The detention of Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.

Yang disappeared in China for 2011 for several days but emerged to say there had been a "misunderstanding" with Chinese authorities.

Former Australian journalist and China analyst John Garnaut said his friend Yang was "not only brilliant but extraordinarily popular
among the Chinese-speaking world and a courageous and committed democrat."

"This will reverberate globally if authorities do not quickly find an off-ramp," Garnaut tweeted on Wednesday.

Bloggers 'are the real reporters'

Yang was a speaker at DW's Global Media Forum in 2009, where he discussed his concerns over internet censorship in China.

"Every blogger is a modern-day Tiananmen Square," Yang said at the forum in Bonn. "The Chinese authorities have continued to increase Internet censorship over the last few years — even with the support of western companies."

"The urge to seize their rights grows among the Chinese people incessantly," said Yang. He said that bloggers and citizen journalists "are the real reporters," but even for them, there are "absolutely taboo topics like Taiwan, Tibet, minorities and democracy."

law/rt (AP, dpa)

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