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Disappearance of Australian writer Yang Hengjun

Yang Hengjun (Henry Yang) is an Australian novelist and blogger who has disappeared in China. While travelling to China with his wife and stepson he was taken several days ago by the secret police of the Ministry of State Security in Guangzhou and is being held incommunicado. Friends in Australia and the United States fear for his safety.

Yang Hengjun is a brave and brilliant writer and civil society leader deeply committed to democratic reform in China, a critic of the Communist Party although not usually regarded as a dissident. He had tens of millions of readers online in China before the authorities cracked down on all comment judged threatening to the Communist Party.

In Australia, Yang Hengjun was one of the very first to warn about CCP interference in Australian politics when he exposed those behind the protests at the 2008 Olympic Torch relay. We ignored him then.

Yang’s arrest appears to be an attempt to intimidate into silence a writer who supports democratic reform in China, in the same way that Professor Feng Chongyi of the University of Technology Sydney was detained and pressured in 2017 for his research on human rights lawyers.

Australian writers of Chinese heritage are especially vulnerable to intimidation; if we fail to protect the most vulnerable then we fail to protect free speech. Yet the Australian Government has been timid in its response to this violation of the rights of an Australian writer.

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PEN Sydney condemns the arbitrary detention of Yang Hengjun, expresses its solidarity with a fellow writer and urges the Australian government to defend robustly his rights as a citizen of this country.


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