Australia seeks consular access to citizen arrested in China

After four days of silence, Beijing on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of a former Chinese diplomat and harsh critic of the Communist Party after he arrived in Guangzhou from New York with his family on Saturday, Australian media reports say.

Yang Hengjun, 53, above, (Image: Facebook), a citizen of Australia since 2002, was warned by friends not to return to China. He ignored their warning by saying his profile is too low in China for him to come to any harm.

They became alarmed after Yang’s Twitter went dead.

One of his friends told media that the democracy activist and his wife were interrogated by authorities for more than 12 hours in Guangzhou.

Australian embassy officials in Beijing want to know why he was detained. They have sought consular access to him.

Back home, Yang’s friends are worried about his safety.

Yang took a flight from New York on Jan 18 and landed at Guangzhou airport the next day. Soon after his arrival, ten security agents accosted him and stopped him and his family from taking a connecting flight to Shanghai.

After many hours, the authorities allowed his wife Yuan Rui Juan and daughter to proceed to Shanghai and continued questioning him.

Yuan is not allowed to talk to Yang.

Yang worked for two decades with the Chinese Foreign Ministry before he turned a blogger and started posting political articles which drew many viewers.

After moving to Australia, Yang was working as a visiting scholar at Columbia University.

This is not the first time Yang went missing in China. In 2011, he was detained during a crackdown on dissidents and public protests. He was released after a few days.

Yang’s latest detention comes amid tit-for-tat arrests by Canada and China after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for suspected bank fraud.

Meng may soon be extradited to the US.