Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has called out the Chinese Communist Party’s lack of transparency regarding an impending closed-door trial of Australian writer Yang Hengjun who has been detained in China since January 2019.
She indicated that Beijing has failed to conform to the basic standards of international norms of transparency and implored the communist regime to allow legal and consular access to Yang prior to his trial on May 27.
“We have conveyed to Chinese authorities, in clear terms, the concerns we have about Dr Yang’s treatment and the lack of procedural fairness in how his case has been managed.
“Consistent with basic standards of justice and China’s international legal obligations, we expect Dr Yang to be granted access to his lawyer and to Australian consular officials in advance of his trial,” she said.
Labor’s shadow foreign minister, Sen. Penny Wong, has said the opposition was deeply concerned that Chinese authorities had failed to provide any explanation or evidence for the charges.
“We strongly support the government’s advocacy for Dr Yang, including through consular assistance, and are disappointed that he has not received basic standards of justice or procedural fairness consistent with China’s international legal obligations,” she said in a statement.
Wong also echoed Payne’s statement that China had obligations under the Australia-China bilateral consular agreement.
Under the consular agreement, Australian officials are permitted access to Yang’s hearing on May 27, but Payne noted: “This has been a closed and opaque process to date.”
Since Yang’s detention, the 55-year-old blogger has had no access to his family and limited access to his lawyer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is “absolutely untrue” Yang acted as a spy for Australia, and Yang has told his family he was innocent and would “never confess to something I haven’t done.”
Yang’s trial had been due to start in January but has been delayed by four months.
He faces a lengthy jail sentence if found guilty on charges of endangering national security by joining or accepting a mission from an unidentified espionage organisation.
Yang was detained by Chinese authorities in January 2019 at Guangzhou Airport after arriving from New York.
Australia has consistently lobbied in his support and that of a second detained Australian, journalist Cheng Lei, who has also been held on suspicion of endangering national security.
AAP contributed to this report.