Writer missing in China prompts concern


Yang HengjunImage copyright

Image caption

Yang Hengjun is a popular blogger and former Chinese diplomat

The Australian government says it is investigating reports a Chinese-Australian writer has gone missing in China.

Yang Hengjun, a blogger and former Chinese diplomat, has not been heard from since flying from New York to Guangzhou on Saturday, a friend said.

Sydney academic Feng Chongyi said he feared that Mr Yang had been detained by Chinese authorities.

Chinese officials have not yet commented.

In response to a query about Mr Yang, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China”.

Mr Yang is believed to have been travelling with his wife, Chinese national Yuan Rui Juan, and young stepson.

A social media post by Ms Yuan appeared to show that she was in Beijing, Australian media reported.

It is believed that she was interviewed there by Chinese officials after first travelling to Shanghai to leave her son with relatives, reported the BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing.

‘We’ve been trying to contact him’

Mr Yang, an Australian citizen who now lives in the US, has a sizeable following online and has been critical of China’s Communist Party.

He was briefly unreachable on a trip to China in 2011 – prompting fears he was missing – but later attributed the episode to a “misunderstanding”.

Associate Prof Feng, an academic at University of Technology Sydney, said he had warned Mr Yang recently against travelling to China, but that Mr Yang had replied that he considered himself to be safe.

“His friends, family, myself – we have been trying to contact him and her these past four days and we all [failed],” Associate Prof Feng told the BBC.

Another friend, Australian journalist John Garnaut, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Let’s hope he reappears today and we can all agree there’s just been a misunderstanding.”

Both friends raised the prospect of Mr Yang’s case following China’s detention of two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in recent weeks.

Australia has previously expressed “concern” about the arrests of the Canadians.

China has denied the detention of the two men is tied to Canada’s arrest of a senior Huawei official, Meng Wanzhou, but many analysts believe it is a tit-for-tat action.

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