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Writer Profiles

Yang Hengjun


Yang Hengjun is a writer and Australian citizen currently detained in China.

He writes political and pro-democracy commentary in Chinese, his blogs and social media have tens of millions of followers. Yang has also written a fictional spy trilogy Fatal Weakness about the competition between US and Chinese intelligence services. Friends describe Yang as charismatic, sharp, charming and funny. 

Yang was a diplomat for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however he developed a strong interest in literature and in 1999 moved to Australia to pursue his dream of being a writer.  He gained a PhD from the University of Technology Sydney.

The Chinese government has long targeted Yang because of his role as an opinion maker.  He was detained in 2011, but was quickly released following an international media campaign and diplomatic pressure from then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

In January 2019 Yang was detained again by authorities and accused of espionage after arriving in China as a visiting scholar from Columbia University in New York.  He is being held in a state security prison in Beijing and is potentially facing the death penalty.  He is regularly interrogated whilst his hands and feet are chained and his health is deteriorating. Yang has not been allowed to see his family or lawyers and monthly visits from Australian consular staff ceased in December last year.

Yang always knew the risks he was taking and in anticipation of his arrest he wrote a letter that he wanted released to activists, asking them to “maintain belief in China’s democratic future and, when it doesn’t put you or your family at risk, to use all your means to push China’s democratic development to happen sooner.”  He urged them to work for “freedom, human rights, the rule of law and justice to occur sooner.”

Family and friends say there is absolutely no basis to the politically motivated accusations and it is suspected his detention is part of an operation to shut down political dissent and to pressure the Australian government over its ban on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei or its position on Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.

The Australian foreign minister Marise Payne has serious concerns for Dr Yang’s welfare and has made requests to Chinese authorities to release him.  No letters are being passed on to Yang, however we encourage members to write to the Chinese ambassador in Canberra expressing your concern about his detention and also to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs thanking them for their activism and encouraging them to keep Yang’s case at the forefront of our relationship.


Reza Khandan

Reza Khandan is a writer, literature critic, a researcher of popular culture, and a board member of the Iranian Writers’ Association. He has been a member of the IWA for 22 years, defending freedom of expression, writers’ rights and challenging censorship.

He was born in 1961 in Ardestan, Iran. When he was two years old his family moved to Tehran. Reza completed his high school in Tehran and after the Cultural Revolution, when the universities opened again, he studied psychology. When he was in high school, he started to write and his first book ‘The Neighbourhood Boys” was published in 1978. In two and half years about 100,000 copies were sold. Reza joined IWA in 1998, since then he has been elected as board member several times and he is now a member of the IWA board. He was arrested in 2009 for his activities around children rights, while he was in prison being a board member of IWA was added to his charges.


Baktash Abtin

Baktash Abtin is a poet and filmmaker and is a board member of the Iranian Writers’ Association. He has been a board member of the IWA three times. He has published five collections of poetry:

And When My Legs Become The Pen; Wrote To Return; My Eyelashes Has Stitched my Eyes; The Unpopulated ID; The Sledgehammer; In Monkey Inside me; My Grandfather Abtin has had extensive works in the film industry and has directed more than ten films. Most of these films are banned in Iran but have been screened in reputable international festivals in Rotterdam, Holland; Gutenberg, Sweden; Palm Spring, USA; Thessaloniki, Greece; and the other festivals in France, Italy, and India.

He has won many awards for his poetry and films including:

  • Poetry Book of the Year, Iranian Journalists
  • Best Director for The Picture Festival in Iran
  • Best Film, Best Director, Best Edit, Best Sound and Best Cinematography for the Film Mark Park
  • Best Director from The Truth Cinema, Iran

Keyvan Bajan (Bazhan)


Keyvan Bajan is a novelist and researcher who has spent his life publishing stories and challenging government censorship.

Born in 1972, in Astaneh Ashrafiyeh, Iran. He was a university graduate in Dramatic Arts and Theatre. He has worked with Iranian publications and magazines like “Adineh” and “Kelk”; and newspaper and weeklies like “Sahrgh”, “Iran”, “Hamshahri”, “Bani-e Film”, “Saheb-e Ghalam”, “Navid”.

He has also published numerous books about Iran’s oral history, as well as novels and collections of stories and poems.

In 2005, the pressure from the Ministry of Intelligence started with weekly interrogations.